Plan to get more people cycling in Surrey gains approval but critics call for curbs on races and sportives

Plans for increase in everyday cycling in the Mole Valley gain approval, but critics still not happy about growth in Surrey Hills cycling events

Plans to provide facilities and training for for everyday cycling in Surrey's Mole Valley, which includes the towns of Leatherhead and Dorking and the cyclist magnet that is Box Hill, have been used by some locals to once again criticise the growth in the number of cycling events in the area. Either that or some people really can't tell the difference between a 30,000-rider sportive and kids riding their bikes to school.

On Wednesday, September 10, Surrey County Council's Mole Valley Local Committee unanimously approved the Mole Valley Local Cycling Plan, according to GetSurrey.co.uk.

The aims of the plan include: "encourage the take-up of cycling as a means of sustainable transport" and "promote and encourage cycling as part of a sustainable and healthy lifestyle".

The plan has been warmly welcomed by local cycling groups.

Dan Webb of B-Spoke, a group which provides guided mountain bike rides for 10 to 16-year-olds in Dorking, told the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser: "Mole Valley and the wider Surrey county have demonstrated, over the last few years, they've been very cycle friendly and keen to accommodate cyclists in the area and encourage it.

"With all the events like the professional races and Ride100 coming through the area I think they're doing a great job and it's good to see them looking to continue that."

Surrey's cycling strategy was open for public consultation between September and November 2013 and received 3,647 responses including 764 (21%) from Mole Valley, which makes up just 7% of Surrey’s population.

Of those who responded, 68% agreed with the overarching aim of the strategy: “more people in Surrey cycling more safely”.

Mole Valley residents said that they felt that more cycle routes and cycle parking provision and better information on cycle routes would encourage residents to take up cycling. Most agreed with the proposed approach to cycle routes, with traffic calming measures highlighted as the most popular means of improving cycling infrastructure.

Residents' concerns around cycling related to heavy and fast traffic, the inconsiderate behaviour of motorists toward cyclists, lack of suitable cycle routes and cyclists not obeying the Highway Code.

But this wouldn't be Surrey without some Mole Valley residents also complaining about the disruption caused by cycling events, associated road closures and the number of sportives occurring on public roads, and that's mentioned as a concern in the plan.

Mole Valley Local Committee agreed that their recommendations had been included in the report and that it addressed the needs of the different range of cyclists in Mole Valley. They recommended the plan be adopted by Mole Valley District Council.

The plan's eight priorities mostly deal with transport and recreational cycling, but you wouldn't know that given the reactions from some Mole Valley residents reported by GetSurrey.

Cycling racing on the road is not mentioned at all in the plan, but that didn't stop Chris Carlisle, parish councillor for Holmbury St Mary from telling GetSurrey he was worried about races.

He said: “I have concerns about the sheer number of cycling events and organised races in the Surrey Hills area that has escalated since just before the Olympics.

“The way the sport has taken off recently has put the Surrey Hills under real pressure.

"It is a huge number of cyclists in quite a small area often going in opposite directions which is very dangerous.

“The roads around the Surrey Hills are not made for huge numbers of cyclists, who as we all know, do not have a speed limit, so a cyclist can do 40mph when the speed limit is 20, which I don’t think is right either.”

Carlisle has campaigned against the number of cycling events in the area and thinks cyclists should be subject to tax, insurance and registration.

Ian Huggins, who was responsible for last year's notorious 'Stop Surrey Being Turned Into a Cycle Track' petition, also focused on cycle racing.

He said: “Nobody would deny that it would benefit the population to get more exercise or to use bicycles to travel to work or go to the shops. However, the truth is our Olympic legacy has nothing to do with the aims of SCC transport policy.

“We suffer from a massive increase in the number of road races being held throughout the Surrey Hills every week.

“Last year there was 307 race events in the Box Hill area of Surrey and this has had an adverse impact on the local community.

"More than 3,500 signed my petition against making Surrey into a race track, that shows the depth of feeling in the community.”

In 2011 the population of Surrey was estimated to be 1,135,500.

The transport section of the Mole Valley Community Plan 2006-2016 says: "There are more cars per mile of road in Surrey than any other shire county in England1 (1.7 times as high as the second busiest county)".

Perhaps bikes really aren't the problem in Surrey.

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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