A county at the centre of the row over large numbers of rider turning local roads into a ‘cycle track’ is going to broadcast a Question Time-style public debate on the issue.
Surrey County Council have taken the rare step of asking the local BBC radio station to broadcast a live debate on the authority’s cycling strategy consultation on 23 October. The public will be able to quiz a panel that includes health experts, representatives from Sustrans, the CTC, Surrey Police and Surrey County Council.
Surrey roads have been the focal point of tension between local residents, motorists and large numbers of cyclists. According to Surrey County Council, many of these cyclists have been inspired to visit by races such the Olympic road race in 2012, the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic and the Tour of Britain.
Opposition to cycling in the county – which is in striking distance of London’s booming population of cyclists – triggered the launch of a Change.org petition entitled Surrey County Council: Stop Surrey being turned into a cycle track. It is more than halfway towards its target of 5,000 signatures from worried locals who dislike the large groups riding “sometimes three and four abreast or in strings… making it virtually impossible for the poor old motorist, many of whom are elderly, to overtake”.
The petition also says: “Surrey County Council have, without consultation, decided it would be a great idea to use Surrey as a race track. This in itself is a thoughtless act but far more importantly residents and numerous businesses are being affected by road closures. This prevents residents of Surrey from leaving their own property and going about their normal business.”
A Surrey County Council Spokeswoman said the tension was particularly acute around Box Hill – a mainstay of professional races that visit the area. She said the council was spurred to host the debate because it recognised the inconvenience felt by local residents and the benefits more cycling could bring to the county.
The Surrey cycling debate will take place on 23 October at the University of Surrey in Guildford. Requests to attend the debate or to ask a question of the panel can be submitted here.