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Snake Pass trespassers are ‘organised gangs up to no good’, says former councillor

Trespass organiser Harry Gray hit back at the claims, and said the rides were a ‘celebration of each individual’s love for the outdoors and cycling’

The organiser of the recent Snake Pass trespass events, Harry Gray, has hit back at claims that those cycling on the closed Peak District road are part of an ‘organised gang’ who are ‘up to no good’.

In an interview with Jeremy Vine on the broadcaster’s Radio 2 programme last Thursday, the former Conservative councillor and mayor of Barnet Brian Coleman discussed the trespass events which have been organised in the wake of Derbyshire County Council’s decision to ban cyclists and walkers from Snake Pass due to “concerns over safety”. 

The road, which lies within the Peak District National Park and carries the busy A57 between Sheffield and Manchester, became a car-free “cycling utopia” after it was closed to motor vehicles at the end of February while repairs were carried out on a small section in the aftermath of landslides caused by storms Eunice and Franklin. 

> Snake Pass now “belongs to cyclists” as Peak District climb closed to motorists for at least a month  

However, two weeks ago Derbyshire County Council confirmed that the pass, which runs for 12 miles from Ladybower Reservoir to Glossop, would also be closed to cyclists and walkers, except for local access. 

The council said that the decision was made due to fears that “there will be an accident involving a vehicle and a cyclist because of the large numbers of cyclists that have taken the opportunity to go out and ride the road.”

> Cycling UK urges council to publish evidence justifying Snake Pass cycling ban 

Over the past two weekends, a group of cyclists have taken part in a mass trespass on the closed section of the A57, organised through Twitter, in a bid to show the council that the road is safer now without motorists than it has ever been.

However Coleman, a highly controversial former councillor known for his pro-car views, criticised the trespass and defended the council’s decision to close Snake Pass “because it is dangerous”.

“And we’re not talking about the odd cyclist here,” he continued. “We’re talking about organised gangs – hundreds of cyclists.”

When challenged by Vine on his use of the term ‘gangs’, that it implied that the cyclists “were up to no good”, Coleman replied: “Well they are up to no good in this case, because they are cycling on a road that has been sensibly closed by the highway authority, so it can repaired so all road users can use it again.”

> Snake Pass protest: Cyclists reclaim car-free route 

Speaking to Yorkshire Live, the organiser of the trespass Harry Gray said that Coleman’s sentiments formed part of a broader “culture war against cyclists”. 

He said: “There has been a coordinated campaign for years from certain media outlets to create a culture war against cyclists.

“I didn't realise how bad it has become until I cycled in Cyprus this winter. I didn't have any issues there with drivers.

“When I came back, I was shouted at by a driver for just cycling down the road safely. It's a really big issue. We are all just people trying to get about at the end of the day.”

> It’s not just cyclists loving the Snake Pass closure – local residents do too thanks to the peace and quiet 

Gray also claimed that the two mass group rides on Snake Pass were not strictly ‘protests’.

“We self-identified the ride as a trespass. People who know the local area well will understand the tongue and cheek reference to the famous Kinder Scout trespass,” he said.

“People who don't maybe shouldn't be given a platform to speak on the issue.

“It started as a protest but really it's about each individual's love for the outdoors and cycling, so more of a celebration. I'd describe it tongue and cheek as a trespass, as I said before.

“But really it was just a mass ride and celebration.”

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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