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Entry Cap for New Forest Sportives Opposed by Cycling Organisations

by Nick Gregory

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British Cycling, CTC and Sustrans are amongst those organisations criticising proposals to implement a cap on the number of riders that can take part in sportives in the New Forest.

The suggested limit of 1,000 entrants would affect a number of events including the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive and the Wiggle New Forest 100, both organised by UK Cycling Events, who have also refused to sign the draft charter which is due to be discussed at a meeting of the New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA) today. 

As well as the cap, the proposed requirement for riders to wear numbers (front and rear) has been described as "discriminatory and disproportionate" in a letter to the authority from local representatives of British Cycling, CTC and Sustrans

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Advisory limits are not recommend by the NFNPA for the number of participants or vehicles attending non-cycling commercial events that also lead to local traffic congestion, such as the New Forest Show or events at the Beaulieu Motor Museum. 

Nor have limits been recommended in other areas where local issues have arisen such as the number of dog walkers during the ground nesting bird season or the number of riders of shod horses; indeed, the NFNPA has previously undertaken significant policy changes when challenged by the equestrian community.

The wearing of numbers in general, let alone front and rear, are not being advised by the NFNPA for any participants in any other recreational activity. It was clear from some attending the Cycle Liaison Group that the requirement for all riders to wear numbers front and rear was motivated by a desire to photograph and report riders during events. 

This form of vigilantism, only one step removed from the illegal removal of signs and the spreading of tacks on the road, can only lead to confrontation and danger to participants. 

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The battle between the cycling lobby and a small, but very vocal group of New Forest locals is nothing new...

In 2013 the aforementioned Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive was subject to sabotage when signs were torn down and tacks placed on the road to cause punctures. Later the same year the Wiggle New Forest 100 experienced similar scenes with signs being ripped down and mud being spread across the road, making the route impassable.

Groups including the Commoners' Defence Association, which represents New Forest pony owners, and the New Forest Equestrian Association (NFEA) have been extremely critical of the increasing number of sportives taking place in the area, citing danger to both livestock and other road users as justification.

As reported by Cyclosport at the time, however, it is in fact motor vehicles that would appear to be the biggest danger to animals in the New Forest; A detailed breakdown of statistics on the Verderers' website states that 64 livestock deaths, and 18 serious injuries were the result of road traffic collisions in 2012 alone. The last recorded incident of a bicycle being involved in such a collision dates back to 1999.

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