New Forest East MP Julian Lewis has urged ministers in Parliament to intervene to prevent "clashes and accidents"


New Forest East MP, Dr Julian Lewis has urged ministers to step-in and take action on the number of sportives taking place in the New Forest, saying it is necessary to prevent “clashes and accidents.”

Making his remarks in a debate in the Commons, the Tory MP said that he did not want a hard-line approach to the issue, but what he called “light-touch regulation”, which did not include banning the events entirely.

“It’s sad that in recent months a major problem has arisen in relation to cycling in the New Forest,” Dr Lewis told the Commons.

“It is not, however, an insoluble problem.”

He asked ministers to consider allowing the National Park Authority (NPA) to firstly limit the number of events and riders taking park, and also to require each bike rider to wear a number so they can be identified in what Dr Lewis referred to as “incidents of an aggressive nature.”

He added that he perceived events to cause no problem when only around 500 or 600 riders took part, but numbers of near 3,000 were dangerous because “people are competing not against each other but against themselves.”

He added: “They are seeking at all times to better the speed and time with which they complete quite lengthy cycle rides in the New Forest – and that brings obvious dangers.

“Unless these major events are regulated – hopefully with a very light touch – there are obvious dangers of clashes , accidents and the generation of ill-feeling.”

Dr Lewis, who has held the New Forest East seat since 1997, also alluded to the proposed New Forest bike hire scheme that came to light in early 2014, saying that it was scrapped because of the “antipathy and poisoning of the well caused by [mass cycling event] clashes” in the national park.

He also confessed that he was not able to voice his feelings on the decision, saying that ““the last time I cycled regularly was in Oxford in 1975” and that he used a moped instead.

“To this day, I am proud to say that I still use two wheels, but they are now powered by 750 cc” Dr Lewis said.

“My admiration is unbounded for those who do invest effort in cycling. Not only is cycling part  of an excellent life and health scheme, it is also part and parcel—indeed, it is integral—to the public profile of the New Forest.”

  • Pete Hurford

    It’s funny but when I used to ride sportives there was always something in the regs saying “you must not race”, but there was always a nudge, nudge, wink, wink attitude to this. I assume that the organisers would put this clause in to satisfy their event insurance requirements, it’s a pity that it doesn’t seem to be enforceable.

  • Mark Jones

    I agree and would not want to ride sportives due to the large numbers and the impatient motorists. Those chasing better times should consider road racing as this would help organisers put on more races.

  • Mark Jones

    Thanks, Pete – i will bear that in mind and not dismiss the area altogether. It sounds now like perhaps the locals has some reason to complain for the disruption caused by such large numbers and unfortunately it ruins it for the rest of us.

  • Brian Turpin

    I think there is a bit of an issue here, putting large groups of cyclists together along narrow roads is likely to cause some frustration on both sides of the fence. The NF is quite a busy area, with a relative lack of quieter lanes. This puts me off doing sportives as I don’t want to be in a large peloton at the head of a frustrated group of impatient motorists? It’s hardly relaxing.
    If people are chasing better times can I respectfully ask them to consider road racing or time trialling which would be a lot safer for everyone concerned.
    Otherwise head for sportives along quieter routes to minimise the potential conflicts and maximise enjoyment of the ride.

  • Mark Jones

    The more I hear about the New Forest, the more I am certain never to holiday in such an area.

  • Pete Hurford

    I live in the New Forest and the organisers need to take a lot of the blame. Riders are sent along narrow country lanes, and are present in such numbers that cars cannot pass them safely. As soon as you have any gradient, for example, you have people wobbling all over the road. So, cars end up passing them unsafely.

    Without even going into the rights and the wrongs, this situation should be avoidable.

    I write as both a motorist and a cyclist. I have ridden this sportive in past years, however these days I am more likely to go out for a ride, and make absolutely sure that my route avoids any contact with the sportive’s route.

    On the face of it I’d have absolutely no objection to this guy’s proposals, although it is worth noting that the sportive that happened just a couple of weeks ago (the “New Forest Sportive”) spent a lot of its route outside the New Forest boundary, so relying on the Park Authority would not work.

  • Ian Turner

    It is caravans that should be controlled, having lived in and around the forest for many years. They are hard to overtake and clog up the roads far more than cyclists.

  • Mike42

    The key point here is “Dr Lewis referred to … “incidents of an aggressive nature.”

    This should be strongly challenged, and Dr Lewis asked to put up his evidence that such events have happened before. Indeed, that even if the police have record of cyclists instigating “incidents of an aggressive nature”, that they are any more likely to have occurred because the mode of transport was two wheels instead of four hooves or two feet.

    I believe if he cannot provide hard proof that ‘cyclists’ are any more likely to breach the law than others, he should retract this statement, or explain why he singles out one road user group over others who don’t have to wear identifying numbers.

  • Richard Braginton

    Clashes and accidents, is that where cyclists run down animals….Oh no that would be motorists, no move to restrict numbers or speed, they could use some of the money allocated, for cycling schemes in the new forest….Oh no there already using that to maintain the roads for the cyclists, yeah right

  • creesey

    makes me laugh there happy to take your money inn the cafes and local shops when i ride there normally, but opposed to sportives, i live in southampton and often ride from lyndhurst around the forest stopping in shops and cafes, looks like MPs not talking to the people who have shops there, mext move will be to ban holiday makes from taking there bikes on holiday there, better close down the cycle hire shops around the forest aswell,