A woman opposed to a pair of cycling events taking place on a road that runs alongside Loch Ness has issued an appeal for other locals to join her in taking “assertive action” in protest against the disruption she believes other local residents will suffer.
Some 800 riders taking part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, who will tackle the Land’s End to John O’Groats route, are due to ride along the A82 between Fort William and Inverness on Friday 12 and Saturday 13 September.
Road safety campaigners the A82 Partnership said last week that it was “cycling madness” that the riders taking part in the event would be passing along that stretch of road at the same time as more than 250 people taking part in the Rat Race Coast to Coast event from Nairn to Ballachulish were travelling the other way.
Anita Nicholls, who together with her husband Simon runs a Lochaber-based training firm whose clients are mainly from the voluntary sector, told the Aberdeen Press & Journal that organisers of the events viewed the area as “a playground” and do not take the views of local people into account.
“I am great supporter of tourism as a key element of boosting the local economy, but not to the detriment of local business and the health and wellbeing of Lochaber residents,” she insisted, while issuing an appeal to other people living in the area to join her in opposing the events.
“I am willing to put my time and expertise into organising assertive action which stays within the law, but frustrates this event and shows the strength and resilience of the Lochaber community in the face of massive disruption and a lack of meaningful negotiation.
“If anyone else is interested in helping to plan this action and take part, I should be very glad to hear from them,” she added.
There is no hint of what kind of “assertive action” Mrs Nicholls is advocating that would involve staying within the bounds of the law and not causing disruption to other road users.
Cyclists who have taken part in events such as the Etape Caledonia or some of the sportives held in the New Forest will be mindful that tacks have been spread on the road to cause disruption, or signs moved – the latter not an issue on the A82, given it is a straight road running up one side of the loch.
We are seeking clarification from Mrs Nicholls about what she has in mind, as well as from Police Scotland about how they intend to maintain order.
The A82 Partnership has distanced itself from her appeal, with spokesman Stewart MacLean “As an organisation we would not wish to get involved in any demonstration or ‘assertive’ action.”
Organisers of both the cycling events in question have also sought to reassure people living in the area that disruption will be kept to a minimum, and that the needs of the local communities have been taken into account.
A spokesperson for the Rat Race Coast to Coast event said: “We have liaised with the organisers of the RAB on the interaction of both events for this year, which occurs at a location off the A82.”
Meanwhile, Threshold Sports, who organise the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, 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.”
Given its spectacular scenery, renown as a tourist destination and position on the Land’s End to John O’Groats route, not to mention Fort William’s status as a leading location for mountain biking including staging UCI events, the Scottish Highlands attract a lot of cyclists.
A report from Transform Scotland has estimated that cycle tourism, including organised events, is worth up to £239 million to the country’s economy – and even a decade ago, a separate report estimated that the Highlands & Islands benefited from cycling to the tune of £40 million a year.
Events such as the Deloitte Ride Across Britain also raise significant amounts of money for charity – in this case, £1.5 million in its first two years alone.
Simon joined road.cc 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.