A councillor in Surrey has claimed that a planned bike park near Dorking could attract child molesters.
Mole Valley District Council’s scrutiny meeting discussed last week the council’s plans to outsource management of the BMX track at Ranmore Common, also a popular venue for mountain bikers with extensive trails, to an outside company.
It says that volunteers have helped cut back overgrown scrubland at the site in the past but are no longer able to do so, and the council does not have the budget to carry the work out itself.
The council says a group that runs mountain biking sessions at a local school has approached it with a view to taking on the management of the BMX track and investing in the facility – which will be branded Surrey Bike Park.
Users will pay for access to the facilities, with annual memberships available (Adult £125.00, Public Services (NHS/Forces) £100.00, Youth (Under 18) £90.00, Full Time Student £90.00 and Family 2 Adults 2 Children £305.00).
There will also be day passes for non-members (All day access –standard rate £10.00, After School – standard rate £5.00, All day access (concessionary) £7.50, After school access (concessionary) £3.75).
“If you've got adults there, and there will be a lot of adult males, and you have children, we know the problem of checking people,” she said. “They have to be checked because of dangers to children.
“All that sort of thing has to be considered because it could be really quite serious, and you never know it could end up children being molested, goodness knows what,” she continued. “I’m not saying it would but it’s that sort of possibility.
“I don’t think it’s for all ages and genders, I think it will be mostly male and probably quite aggressive males at that,” she added.
The councillor has been accused of making a “sweeping generalisation” by local resident Sarah Meijer, who said: “Saying there is most likely to be aggressive males is a sweeping generalisation,” she said.
“The idea that it would be full of aggressive males on the prowl and the possibility of child molestation was completely unfounded.
“I have always found the cycling community to be extremely friendly, welcoming and supportive.
“I and others were disgusted and offended by the remarks. It is this sort of subtle discrimination that often goes unchecked but needs to be stamped out,” she added.
Some locals, reportedly including members of Mole Valley Cycling Forum, have protested about the BMX track being turned into a paid facility.
But the council’s cabinet member for leisure, Councillor David Draper, said: “People want an adult presence there, they want the ability to repair bikes, they want first aid and they want training, all of which are positive additions.”
Councillor Wiltshire insisted after the meeting that she was reflecting the views of one local resident who had got in touch with her.
“It is unfortunate that my words have been interpreted negatively but I was genuinely trying to save the bike park for existing users to use freely,” she told Get Surrey.
The scrutiny committee voted against the plans, although the ultimate decision rests with the council’s cabinet.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.