PLANS for a crackdown on the soaring numbers of major cycling events in the New Forest have moved a step closer.
Biking groups, politicians and conservationists held a second summit meeting in a bid to overhaul mass commercial cycling events in the national park.
The landmark scheme – led by the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) – is being brokered as a peace deal between warring factions after the high-profile sabotage of a flagship bike ride and rising safety and environmental fears of hundreds of riders using the area’s roads and countryside. Organisers of the annual Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive were outraged that lives were put at risk when scores of tacks were sprinkled on to the route and hundreds of signs were ripped up at April’s event.
However motorists, residents, horse-riders and commoners fear the events risk damaging the Forest’s wildlife, flora and fauna, and are causing hazards for other road users.
Representatives from 19 groups met to discuss amendments to Cycle Event Organisers Charter and the Cycling Code of Conduct to set out clear rules to protect local communities and the environment while upholding riders’ and road users’ safety.
Their latest meeting focused on reforming the charter, which already sets out guidelines for event organisers to keep litter and noise to minimum and liaise with parish councils, local authorities and residents.
It also recommends contributing ride fees and donations to the local economy or charities working in the area.
NPA community and visitor services manager Nigel Matthews said: “We focused on the draft charter. Several improvements were suggested and we’ll be continuing the discussion when we next meet in December.”
New Forest East MP Dr Julian Lewis did not attend the meeting but has previously called for cycling events to be licensed.
He said: “The use of Forest roads for recreational activity depends on common sense and give and take. Clearly the monitoring of frequent amounts of cycling events on the public highway infringes rights of other road users and this is why the working group’s task is so important.”
James Knight, is chairman of the New Forest District Council’s public events and safety advisory group which ensures police and other authorities scrutinise event plans and risk assessments.
He said: “By liaising with other local organisations we can help avoid clashes.”
Nick Farth-ing, area manager for Sustrans, which promotes cycling and walking activities and reduction of car use in the area, said: “There are so many different groups but everyone wants to work together to create a code of conduct for everyone.”
Sue Westwood, clerk to the Verderers, the ancient guardians of the New Forest, added: “We welcome anything that helps co-operation between the community, cyclists and other organisations that manage the forest.”
Martin Barden, of UK Cycling Events, which organised the Wiggle, declined to comment.