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New Forest to consider pushing for laws to control sportives?

Report to National Park Authority suggests legislation one way to control cycling events

The New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA) could consider lobbying for a change in the law to regulate sportive events taking place within the area, in a bid to control the number of riders participating in such events and the frequency with which they are held.

The issue was raised in a report on cycle events submitted to the authority at its meeting last week and prepared by its head of recreation management and learning, Nigel Matthews.

According to the report, pressing for a change in the law could be one way of resolving conflict between some local residents on the one hand and sportive organisers and participants on the other.

Sportives currently do not require a licence and unlike road races or time trials are not subject to the Cycle Racing on Highways Regulations 1960 and do not need police permission.

Mr Matthews explained in his report that if sportives were to be governed by legislation, it would most likely be through those regulations, which are made under the Road Traffic Act 1988, or through the Licensing Act 2003, which does not currently cover outdoor sporting events.

He said: “Given the magnitude and increasing popularity of sportives there is a strong argument that such legislation should be brought up to date. Julian Lewis MP has written to Transport Minister, Robert Goodwill to this effect.

“However, we do not know how likely it is that the Department for Transport and other key Government departments could be convinced of the need and net benefits, or how legislative changes would in practice enable a local authority to control the size or frequency of events. “

The biggest events in the area are the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive, held in April, and the Wiggle New Forest Autumn Sportive, which takes place in October.

Both are organised by UK Cycling Events, and each event has been targeted in the past by saboteurs opposed to sportives in the national park, including spreading tacks on the road and taking down or moving signs.

Earlier this year, the NFNPA published a draft charter for cycling events, drawn up after consultation with the Cycling Liaison Group it had established that brings together a variety of organisations including those representing local residents, horse riders and cyclists.

UK Cycling Events is also involved in the Cycling Liaison Group, and at the time the draft charter was published its owner, Martin Barden, said it contained nothing the company was not already doing.

In his report to the authority last week, Mr Matthews said the company was “fully engaged” with the Cycling Liaison Group and added that the business had made a number of changes to its major events over the past year, including “a 20% reduction in the number of participants, an increase in the number of marshals, no longer publishing results in order of performance,” and “improved management of feed stations.”

The report went on: “Although not without issues, especially around one of the feed stations, it was widely agreed that the UK Cycling Event in April this year caused fewer problems than similar events in April and October 2013. For example, the Police received only two complaints about the event.

“Looking ahead, we are aware that constructive discussions are already in hand regarding their October 2014 event – with potential issues being identified much further in advance, leaving plenty of time to resolve them.”

Besides suggesting that legislation might be one way to regulate sportives, the report also highlighted that some NFPFA members had said they would support using an Article 4 Direction, which falls under planning law, to place restrictions on events through the start venues they use.

However, that could only be done for events beginning in the national park itself – something that is no longer the case for the sportives organised by UK Cycling Events.

It added: “We are not aware of any other planning authorities that have used this means to control cycle events and the grounds on which any restrictions are made would have to be carefully thought through.”

Surrey County Council has previously called for sportives to be regulated through legislation, as has British Cycling following an incident earlier this year in which riders participating in an event found themselves on the course of the Yorkshire Regional Road Race.

Some of the participants in that sportive ignored instructions from marshals to get off the road while the race passed.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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matthewn5 | 9 years ago

+1 for the suggestion of Yorkshire. I was up there at the weekend as were thousands of others on bikes, and while there was a little bickering about holding up traffic, we were made to feel welcome at every possible moment.

And there are some decent hills to make a sportive more challenging!

jashem | 9 years ago

Leave the NIMBYS to it. Come up here to Yorkshire, and ride the Dales. There's lots of great places to see, places to stay, some great climbs (and descents), great views, great cafes, and loads of welcoming people.  103

notfastenough replied to jashem | 9 years ago
jash wrote:

Leave the NIMBYS to it. Come up here to Yorkshire, and ride the Dales. There's lots of great places to see, places to stay, some great climbs (and descents), great views, great cafes, and loads of welcoming people.  103

The only poblem is that there's no way to take certain KOMs anymore, since a bunch of fast fairly guys rode them at the weekend!

Matt eaton | 9 years ago

Lets' be honest, Sportive are races of a sort. They have dropped a few features typical of races from the origonal Gran Fondo format but as long as participants get a 'result' reported back to them on their performance they will be a (pretty low rent) type of race in my view.

If the law is changed such that Sportives in their current format are classed as races the organisers will simply drop another 'racey' feature to circumvent the rules. On the other hand the biggest of them might even be able to use their status as races to get roads closed etc. (as already pointed out by someone else). I'm not necesarily saying that circumventing the rules is a bad thing, only that this is, in reality, what sportives represent. Take away the timing chips (leaving riders to their GPS computers or phones for this info) and what you're left with is no different from a charity ride or even an enormous club run that some kind soul has taken the time to signpost. At this point there will be nothing (legally) that the NIMBYs can do to limit the number of riders at such events.

From the point-of-view of the local objectionists, a change in the law would at best have no results at all on the number of cyclists on 'their' roads and at worst would mean that they have to put up with greater disruption due to road closures.

ironmancole | 9 years ago

Interesting they might use the Road Traffic Act 1988 to introduce new rules.

Isn't this the most widely ignored, flounted and least upheld set of legislation ever drafted?


TheSpaniard | 9 years ago

If they change the law to class sportives as races, that could backfire spectacularly on the NIMBY bumpkins because it would make it easier for organisers to close the roads!

northstar | 9 years ago


MrGear | 9 years ago

I live in an area that has a major shopping centre, a major tourist attraction, a major horse-racing course and a major rugby stadium nearby. As a result, on any given weekend the roads can be clogged with cars trying to get to one event or another. It can prevent me getting out in my own car - or even my bike!

You won't find me writing to the AA demanding laws to be changed though... this is the place I chose to live, and the fact that lots of exciting things happen here is what makes it a good place to be.

gazza_d | 9 years ago

As sportives are not races, I am struggling to see what laws could be introduced which would not have a wider impact on public liberty.

You could apply the same concerns to large car boot sales, village fairs, festivals, and ANY event where people congregate. These are public roads and not the preserve of a few natives.

Pretty sure if this is tried, mass protests like the mass walks arranged by the ramblers association back in the 30s will be the result.

Maybe what's needed is a "sportive" event in the new forest where 3000 cyclists turn up and drive around slowly with bikes on car racks.

contrast all of this with the attitude of the Yorkshire Dales NP who are painting the place yellow to welcome people on bikes

Yorkshie Whippet | 9 years ago

Am I right in thinking the residents are up in arms over two events? Bloody hell it seem that every weekend for the few months there's been an event on le Tour route.

Oh I forgot Chelsea tractors rule the road!

29erKeith replied to Yorkshie Whippet | 9 years ago

There are a few other events but they are all much smaller than the Wiggle\UKCycling events, which are the only ones that seem to get any press

bikebot | 9 years ago

Very curious as to what sort of law might be proposed. The wiggle events have no special road use requirements, everyone taking part should use the road the same as any other visitor.

So what's left? If the proposal is to restrict the number of people that can gather in the forest at a pre-arranged time and place (an event), I think that might attract much wider attention than from just cyclists.

29erKeith | 9 years ago

The disruption caused by these events is minimal imho. I am a local resident, a number of New Forest Sportives have passed my house in the past few years, with no bother at all.

They are held out of the main season and bring a lot of money in to the area (I do not work in a tourism related industry).

Yes people may be held up here and there a few min's on a couple of weekends a year, that hold up's not a patch on the delays from regular traffic a regular pinch points or when lots of other non cycling events are on throughout the year.

Yes there will always be a few idiots at these events as there is anywhere in life and doing anything!

Yes some rules and limits might be a good idea to stop things getting out of hand in the future but from what I know it sounds like Wiggle\UKCycling events has been fully engaged with the relevant authorities.

Those few locals will not be happy until events like these are banned. Please let’s not let that happen.

They've just recently sacked their chairman to get in a new even more anti-cycling chairman by the sounds of it; this is no doubt as a result of that.

Should Dr Julian Lewis come along to our village BBQ again I might tackle him on this subject to see what the real problems are and most of the stuff they come up with is nonsense, danger the wildlife\public\environment, destroying the "new forest way of life" etc.

Simmo72 | 9 years ago

I do have some sympathy for residents of these areas. The number of events and number of participants should be controlled, it is a big business. But at the same time the attitude of some residents and their reluctance to accept that cycling is a viable form of transport is beyond belief. It isn't going to go away. Same goes for the stupid cyclists, behave yourselves.

Also, even with regulation in place there is nothing to stop 10,000 cyclists descending on a given area at a given time on a given route and it cannot be classified as a sportive. We have a right to use the roads as much as anyone.

i often get stuck behind a cyclist or 10 in my area, its a very popular part of the world for it, but it makes me happy as it slows down the morons.

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