Residents and businesses in the Scottish Highlands have expressed concerns over potential disruption to traffic on the A82 as a result of two cycling events taking place in the area next month – one of them the Deloitte Ride Across Britain – with a road safety campaigner describing the clash as “cycling madness.”
Some 800 riders will take part in what is the fifth edition of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, a nine day fully supported ride that the length of Great Britain that this year runs from Land’s End to John O’Groats and which will follow the A82 Glasgow to Inverness road, passing through there on Friday 12 and Saturday 13 September.
According to the Aberdeen Press & Journal, the same weekend will also see more than 260 cyclists heading along the road in the opposite direction as they take part in the Rat Race Coast to Coast event from Nairn to Ballachullish.
The A82 heads northeast after Fort William and follows the northern shore of Loch Ness as it heads towards the Highland capital, passing through Drumnadrochit on its way – home to the Glenurquhart shinty team.
The side will be playing a cup final in Inverness against Kingussie on the Saturday with 3,000 fans expected to attend, which critics of the clash between the two cycling events say may add to the potential traffic chaos and affect the safety of riders and other road users.
Brian Murphy, chairman of road safety campaign group the A82 Partnership, said: “The A82 struggles to cope with the existing levels of traffic, including cyclists, at the moment, and I fear for the safety of both the cyclists and other road users.
“People get frustrated when they get caught behind large numbers of cyclists and start to take risks by trying to overtake in all sorts of daft places.
“This is cycling madness,” he went on.
“We have spoken on a number of occasions to Deloitte and to the organisers, Threshold Sports, but they are not interested in mitigating the negative impact this event will have on the economy of the west Highlands or the impact on normal traffic.”
He added: “Just to add to the fun, Glenurquhart play Kingussie in the Camanachd Cup Final at Bught Park in Inverness – an event which will draw a crowd of at least 3,000, predominantly from around Loch Ness and Badenoch.”
The latter lies on the A9 which runs south from Inverness towards Perth and passes through Kingussie, the most successful team in the history of shinty and, indeed, any sport, acording to Guinness World Records - and it's likely that most of the fans heading to the final would be coming from there and not using the A82 at all.
Lesley Benfield, chief executive of the Lochaber Chamber of Commerce, said that sporting and charity events gave a boost to local businesses.
“However,” she continued, “they also need to be carefully planned and their potential disruption to the local community carefully considered.
“In these cases, local people and businesses are very concerned at the severe impact on travel when the roads are already busy with visitors, with the potential not only for serious delays but also road safety issues.”
Nick Tuppen, commercial director at Deloitte Ride Across Britain organisers Threshold Sports – co-founded by Olympic champion rower turned adventurer James Cracknell – said: “We are working with the key local authorities to minimise disruption as much as possible and will continue to do so until the event has passed through the area.”
Meanwhile, the Coast to Coast event, which involves running, cycling and kayaking, is billed as a two-day challenge but offers participants the opportunity to attempt it in one day.
A spokesman for the organisers of the Rat Race Coast to Coast event, which includes running, cycling and kayaking, commented: “Our route design and consultation with authorities and stakeholders has ensured a route that interacts very little with the A82.
“We have deliberately kept the route off busy sections of the A82 such as Fort William-Ballachulish, Fort William-Fort Augustus and Fort Augustus-Inverness.”
Earlier this year, there were partial of full road closures along the A82 when it formed part of the route of the inaugural edition of the Etape Loch Ness, which took in a loop encompassing what is Great Britain’s deepest body of inland water and one of the country’s most spectacular locations.
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.