Box Hill cycling boom sparks police patrols

Residents call increase a nuisance; similar argument in New Forest

Tensions between motorists and cyclists using the Box Hill section of next year’s Olympic road race route have prompted extra police patrols.

Surrey Police say there has been a “significant” increase in cyclists around Box Hill, with residents calling the increase a nuisance, according to BBC reports. Box Hill will be tackled nine times during next summer’s race and it seems more amateurs are being attracted to the hill to get a taste of what the elite will experience.

"We are taking any community concerns very seriously," said Sgt Andy Rundle of Surrey Police. "This isn't an issue solely of cyclists but an issue of increased visitors to Box Hill full stop. We are stopping motorists and cyclists and making sure that all road users are mindful that they are likely to encounter increased numbers of cyclists."

Cyclists' a threat to New Forest livestock, says Commoners’ Defence Association

Similar developments are brewing in the New Forest, according to the Southern Daily Echo. The Commoners’ Defence Association (CDA), who represent owners of livestock that roam the area, have accused cyclists of posing a danger to animals and other road users, some of which, he claims, have been “frightened and abused” by large groups of riders. 

CDA chairman Graham Ferris said his organisation was concerned that a rise in organised races has resulted in "huge numbers of cyclists travelling silently at speed on narrow country lanes - at great risks to residents and livestock." He added that it disrupted the tranquillity of the forest, with noise and lights disturbing the livestock and wildlife, and that the Forestry Commission should instruct its keepers to enforce the by-laws and take action against persistent offenders. He also took issue with mountain bikers riding "far from established cycling routes at any hour of the day or night".

A Forestry Commission spokesperson told BikeRadar they support and encourage cycling as a healthy, sustainable form of transport and as a member of the New Forest Cycle Working Group is working hard to provide a "code of practice" for organised biking events. This is still at a very early stage however and with the group only meeting on a quarterly basis, it may be some time before it's complete.

The spokesperson added that Forestry Commission staff and volunteers patrol the forest, issuing maps of the cycle network when necessary and speaking to cyclists and groups about appropriate behaviour and routes. In response to the by-law issue, they said the laws cover a huge area and they police them as far as their resources could stretch.

The issue of supposed inappropriate cyclist behaviour was raised last month at a meeting of the New Forest National Park Authority, with cyclists countering that they made roads safer for people and animals by encouraging drivers to slow down.

Official data from the New Forest National Park website backs up the cyclists’ claims and rejects the CDA’s notion that the roads are now more dangerous to livestock. 2010 saw the fewest number of animals (65) killed, and killed or injured (92) on the park’s roads since records began in 1956. We contacted the New Forest National Park Authority to find out how many of these deaths were caused by cyclists. The answer? Zero - they were all caused by motorists.

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