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.
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“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.”
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