British Cycling hope a pilot scheme where marshals are issued with 'Stop' signs and given legal powers to control traffic will be rolled out across the country, helping to safeguard the future of amateur road racing.
Grassroots racing is enjoying huge growth in the UK – since 2009, there's been a 15 percent increase in competitive events organised by British Cycling members and clubs, and a 28 percent increase in people taking out racing licences – and with most events held on open roads, the need for effective marshalling is vital, not just to ensure the safety of competitors but also other road users.
The 'Sign Pilot' scheme, which is the culmination of three years' work, is part of an ongoing programme to find the most appropriate method of controlling traffic. Last month's High Wycombe CC autumn road race was the final test event. Each of the 10 marshals involved attended a training course designed to give them the skills to direct traffic with confidence and was then issued with a lollipop-lady style 'Stop' sign with an image of a bike on it.
Race organiser Alasdair MacVarish told BikeRadar he was happy with how the signs worked on the day, as were the riders and marshals he spoke to, and he'd like to see them become a permanent fixture. He said the problem for the longer term would be in training the marshals and ensuring that those who've already received training return for the next race. “The training session was longer than required in my judgment and could be delivered on the day of the event,” he said.
The pilot will continue into next year, when British Cycling are hopeful they'll be given the green light to roll out the scheme to other areas. “Part of the work around the Sign Pilot is to demonstrate to the police and Local Highway Authorities that it'll better protect all road users in and around a cycling road race – in order to try to establish a brighter future for road racing at both a regional and national level,” a British Cycling spokesman told BikeRadar.
“[The scheme] is likely to be endorsed by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Department for Transport. However, it’s worth nothing that it’s reliant on individual police forces and Local Highway Authorities seeing the benefit to all road users.”