Lack of "community support" leads to cancellation of action against A82 rides

"The organisers are not going to listen if it’s just me," says organiser...

The Lochaber businesswoman who was calling for "assertive action" against two bike rides scheduled to use the A82 on the same day has abandoned the idea of a protest because of lack of local support.

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.

Campaign group A82 Partnership, which is demanding the A82 be upgraded and has opposed a change in the road's speed limit from 60mph to 50mph said recently 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, last week said she was willing to organise "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."

It turns out, though, that the community isn't that strongly united against the rides after all.

Ms Nicholls told the Aberdeen Press & Journal that nobody had taken her up on her offer, and she was giving up on the idea.

She said: “It needed to be a community initiative. The organisers are not going to listen if it’s just me. And it’s too late to do anything now so it won’t be happening.

“I’ve been accused of NIMBYism and of planning to do all sorts of illegal things, which we never said we would do. Some of the messages were very personal and hurtful.

“I pointed out that much of the community’s intent was motivated towards protecting the cyclists, as well as ensuring that lives were not put at risk.

“This road is lethal and claims many lives every year. If it becomes blocked, emergency vehicles cannot get through as there is a steep rock face on one side and a 400ft deep loch on the other.

“We rely on tourism in this part of the world to boost our local economy. We do not want to deter cyclists from coming here, but the unique geography poses serious questions that the organisers refuse to accept.”

The A82 Partnership distanced itself from Ms Nicholls original appeal. Spokesman Stewart MacLean said: “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.”

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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