THEY are becoming an increasingly controversial sight in the New Forest – thousands of Lycraclad cyclists speeding along country roads.
Now a Hampshire MP is calling for commercial cycling events in the area to be licensed following a spate of complaints about the huge number of riders taking part.
Motorists, horse riders and the people who own the Forest’s famous ponies have highlighted the dangers they claim the events are causing.
About 4,000 cyclists are expected to descend on the area this weekend, when the Fordingbridge-based UK Cycling Events stages the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive.
Participants will be able to compete in either a 58-mile or an 86-mile ride, starting at New Park, Brockenhurst.
Now Dr Julian Lewis, Tory MP for New Forest East, has written to transport minister Norman Baker and called for a formal licensing system to be introduced.
It coincides with plans by the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) to draw up a charter for the organisers of mass cycle events.
Highway Code Dr Lewis’s letter accuses some of the riders of flouting the Highway Code and also cites two near misses involving cyclists and Forest animals.
It adds: “We should not wait for a serious incident before deciding upon an appropriate degree of regulation – not something heavyhanded but something recognising that both the frequency and size of these huge commercial cycling events have greatly increased.
“Events of this size on public roads clearly need some form of regulation and/or licensing.”
The changes sought by Dr Lewis would require special permits to be issued by New Forest District Council.
An NPA spokesman said the events were not races, which meant no formal permission to stage them was currently needed.
However, he confirmed that the NPA aimed to produce a code of conduct for cyclists and a charter for event organisers following concerns raised by residents and other organisations.
But Martin Barden, a director of UK Cycling Events, has hit back at critics. He said the start of the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive would be spread over two-and-a-half hours, with cyclists released in small groups.
“Cycling is becoming more and more popular and it is the responsibility of every motorist and cyclist to share the roads in a considerate manner,” added Mr Barden.
“Any cyclist seen to be breaking the Highway Code will, as part of our terms and conditions, be banned from future events.”