Police are carrying out door-to-door inquiries in the hunt for saboteurs who targeted a mass cycling event in Hampshire.
Lives were put at risk after nails were thrown along Braggers Lane, Bransgore, during the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive, which attracted more than 2,000 entrants. A total of 15 cyclists suffered punctures but police say no-one was injured. Now officers are carrying out house-to-house inquiries in a bid to trace the culprits.
Bransgore Parish Council chairman Cllr Richard Frampton hit out at attempts to sabotage the ride and endanger the safety of riders. He said:
“I know there’s been sensitivity over these events, partly because of the numbers, but there’s no excuse for anyone to take the law into their own hands. If there are genuine concerns they should go through the proper channels and be looked at in the correct way.”
It follows a similar incident last year in which opponents placed drawing pins in the road. Cllr Frampton said any genuine arguments against mass cycling events in the Forest were being undermined by people taking illegal action.
The New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) said it was shocked to learn that nails had been left in the road. An NPA spokesman said:
“There can be no justification for acts that may cause accident or injury. The event was closely monitored and while we’ve heard reports that the behaviour of a minority of cyclists was unsatisfactory, the large majority behaved well and followed the New Forest Cycling Code, which encourages responsible cycling.”
The spokesman confirmed that a draft cycling charter for event organisers was being prepared and would be debated by the Cycling Liaison Group on April 29.
UK Cycling Events, organisers of the Wiggle event, have already introduced a number of changes ahead of the proposed new charter. Director Martin Barden said:
“Our focus is delivering a safe, enjoyable cycling event which is considerate to locals. We’ve made considerable changes to ensure this happens including, a new venue, a new route, increased marshal presence and a reduction in the number of participants by more than 20 per cent.”
Dr Tony Hockley, chairman of the New Forest Equestrian Association, has been an outspoken critic of mass cycling events in the Forest. But he took part in the weekend ride, saying he wanted to see for himself how cyclists affected the animals. Last night Dr Hockley welcomed the decision to improve the route by removing Blissford Hill and some of the narrow country lanes from the event. He added:
“I think it caused the usual problems given the size of the event, but I’m not aware of any significant events. The route was better and the vast majority of cyclists behaved themselves, although I still think the numbers were too big for forest lanes. I’d also like to see numbers on the backs of riders so that the few cyclists who spoil things can be identified.”