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Unofficially organised cycle races up Box Hill

I haven't come to an opinion on this, yet.

A Youtuber has been organising a "£50 to beat me racing up Box Hill" challenge. With live traffic, pedestrians, and others riding bikes, present.

What do others think?

Original video reporting on the challenge:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwDrRXfyUos

Interesting (& imo pretty good) Ashley Neal commentary, focused on safety aspects:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9ctiE-M1go
*** (This link was wrong and has been updated on 6/12/2023) ***

My concerns are mainly around the possible lawbreaking (but grey areas around Box Hill being partly private road, and where the requirement to register applies, so difficult to call), safety risks, reputational damage and feeding evidence to those who have a general down on cycling.

Do you think this Is OK, borderline or reprehensible? And why?

If you're new please join in and if you have questions pop them below and the forum regulars will answer as best we can.

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13 comments

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henryb | 2 months ago
0 likes

I'd say it's fine to try and beat your mates up Box Hill when you all arrive at the bottom together, or to try and catch that wheel that you see 50 metres up the road. However signing up ahead of time to an organised challenge is a very different matter. Think about the situation if you knocked over and injured a pedestrian or another cyclist and there's documentary evidence that you had signed up to a challenge or race. It then doesn't matter who was to blame; the finger would point at you as someone who, because they were taking part in an organised race, may have been riding more aggressively or with less care than the conditions allowed.

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Dnnnnnn | 2 months ago
5 likes

I hadn't realised it was possible not to race up Box Hill...

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Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
8 likes

The Ashley Neal link goes to a video on pavement parking?

I can't really see a problem with this, most people treat Box Hill as a bit of a race anyway, trying to beast your mates, catch the people up ahead or hang onto the wheels of those who've passed you (tip from experience, if it's Jason Kenny and Laura Trott just let them go or you'll end up looking very silly and/or need a resus team). They're only racing uphill so they're not going above 20mph (even the KOM is under 22mph) and there's only two of them so I can't really see the difference (apart from very significantly higher speed) between them racing up there and me and a mate trying to be first to the cafe (last one buys the coffee and flapjacks). If they were racing in a large group, necessitating wider overtakes of three or four abreast, or if they were doing it downhill, that would be a very different matter, but from what I can see on the video no harm, no foul. It's OK to overtake a slower rider as you go up the hill and that is, effectively, all that's happening.

In terms of reputational damage to cycling, those who are looking for it will find it but they've already made up their minds anyway. I think most neutral observers would just shrug and say there's a lot worse to worry about.

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mattw replied to Rendel Harris | 2 months ago
1 like

I've updated the Ashley Neal link to this one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9ctiE-M1go&t=1s

Thanks for pointing that out.

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Rendel Harris replied to mattw | 2 months ago
2 likes

Thanks for the video, points which occur watching it are:

- It's a total false equivalence to talk about car racing on the M58 and two bikes racing at Boxhill, just for starters obviously two cars racing on the M58 would be going over the speed limit whereas even a pro cyclist isn't going to get close to the 30 mph limit on Zigzag Road going uphill;

- Where Ashley says the cyclists go round a blind hairpin where they can't have any idea of the oncoming traffic, there are clear sight lines through the trees to see what's coming, even in high summer (I've been riding up Box Hill for nearly 40 years, God help me, so I do know a bit about it);

- Another assumption is made about the fatigue level of the cyclists, Ashley says that they are knackering themselves to the point where they will be dangerous, but in fact they are only going from the first hairpin up the straight and stopping before the third, probably about 500 m, so one doubts this is enough to make them as dangerously fatigued as Ashley claims;

- Where Ashley fusses about the second challenger taking the inside line on the hairpin, the only car present has clearly been allowed to pass before the overtake is made and it's made with a clear view up the road showing there's no traffic coming;

- Fair point on the overtake near the finish line for the second challenger, that was foolish;

- Desperate overreach criticising the riders for not having lights on their bikes on a clear sunny day and linking that to the DoT statistics showing how many serious incidents involve cyclists not having lights, that's really jumping the shark;

- Again, Ashley says the cyclists were travelling too fast for the conditions, they were well within the speed limit on dry pavement on a sunny day, climbing at 17-20 mph is not too fast for those conditions;

- Claims the risky overtake shows loss of control, it doesn't, as above, I agree it was risky but at no point does the cyclist appear to lose control, in fact if they did they would've crashed;

- Ashley goes on to criticise the cyclists for wearing dark clothing (even though as he admits the main rider is wearing a white helmet): again, this is on a bright sunny day!

- Ashley finishes up by lumping the last three most risky conditions from the DoT statistics together and saying all of them were clearly displayed, but he doesn't actually provide any evidence that they were.

In short, in my opinion all of Ashley's criticisms apart from the one of the second challenger making an overtake near the line are desperately overreaching and trying to find fault where there is none. If this video hadn't included the race element and was just two mates going up Box Hill I don't think he would even have bothered, he's latched onto the fact that they were racing and constructed a whole narrative of unsafe behaviour around that which simply doesn't hold up.

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HoarseMann | 3 months ago
2 likes

My view is it was a bit of a dodgy stunt, but I didn't see anything risky with the riding. A lot of cyclists riding up there are putting an effort in anyway. In terms of 'challenge' type content, it seemed pretty tame.

Neal made a bit of a meal out of it IMO.

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Tom_77 | 3 months ago
1 like

I've done a couple of Duathlons, which were on public (open) roads, I didn't feel that either was dangerous. However, for those events there were risk assessments, a briefing beforehand, marshalls on the course, equipment inspections, etc. They also took place early on a Sunday morning with almost no traffic on the road.

I haven't watched either video, I'd probably say borderline not OK. My biggest concern would be civil liability for the organiser / lack of event insurance.

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Surreyrider replied to Tom_77 | 2 months ago
1 like

The Box Hill climb via the switchbacks is on a private road owned by the National Trust but I'm not sure if that makes any difference.

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mattw replied to Surreyrider | 2 months ago
0 likes

That's an interesting one.

Motoring laws are enforcible in areas accessible to the public eg supermarket car parks, so imo are on a private road (I bet there is case law but I'm not taking half an hour to find it).

The question imo would be applicability to cycles. I think that since cycles are 'carriages' under the 188x legal precendent offences such as Cycling without due Care would apply, and perhaps also Organising an Unregistered Cycle Race (whatever the actual offence is).

My greatest concern is that this is by a prominent Youtuber, and might be expected to spread - at which point it *could* become a problem.

And  I think it could be a justification for the NT to restrict cycling there.

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Rendel Harris replied to mattw | 2 months ago
1 like

I think the key fact would be that although ZigZag Road is privately owned by the National Trust, it's also a public highway, so road law would definitely apply in a way that it wouldn't on a completely private road on a closed estate that did not have public access.

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Tom_77 replied to Rendel Harris | 2 months ago
1 like

The Cycle Racing on Highways Regulations,1960

Private roads are usually not Highways*, so the above law probably doesn't apply. It is a road though, so the laws on dangerous cycling, etc would apply.

* for a private road to be a highway the public must have 20 years' uninterrupted use of it, usually the owner will close the road one day per year to prevent this.

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Bungle_52 | 3 months ago
0 likes

I disgree with any type of racing on public roads. Racing leads to risk taking which is fine if the racers are the only ones who will suffer, they have chosen to take part, but not fine for other road users.

Public roads should be for getting from A to B as safely as possible minimising risk for other road users.

Tracks or closed roads can be used for racing.

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belugabob replied to Bungle_52 | 2 months ago
0 likes
Bungle_52 wrote:

I disgree with any type of racing on public roads. Racing leads to risk taking which is fine if the racers are the only ones who will suffer, they have chosen to take part, but not fine for other road users.

Public roads should be for getting from A to B as safely as possible minimising risk for other road users.

Tracks or closed roads can be used for racing.

Nicely done, sir - criticising bad behaviour in a non transport mode specific manner.
Now, if only the rest of the internet could get their head around that idea...

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