The use of tacks to disrupt cycling events is becoming a regular occurrence. Here in the New Forest there have been a couple of notable instances of sabotage involving people scattering tacks on the road to disrupt a cycle event. Not only is this costly (a bike tyre can cost between £30 and £60), it’s also dangerous.
The first of these was during the Wiggle Spring Sportive in 2013 when tacks were strewn across the road at Boldre. Other attempts to disrupt the event included removing signs and driving vehicles slowly along the route. The second sabotage instance (again a Wiggle sportive) was earlier this year when tacks were spread over the road on Braggers Lane – a cynical move intended (presumably) to cause maximum damage and injury, given that it is a fast downhill section of the route. All this effort to disrupt events which bring visitors and income to the New Forest seems somewhat counter productive.
Road cycling in the New Forest is not going away, so there has to be a way through this that works for everyone.
Tourism is a key source of financial income for the New Forest – generating nearly £400 million a year, with almost 8,000 jobs dependent on the 13 million + people who visit every year. Yet, some see cycling as an unwelcome intrusion. However, there has to be an element of perspective. The Wiggle Sportives in the New Forest are currently held three times a year (if you include the one that also goes over to the Isle of Wight) and whilst the number of entrants is high, surely this a great opportunity to showcase the best the Forest has to offer! Many who enter these sportives have a disposable income, and spend it by staying at a hotel or B&B and eating in one of the many excellent pubs or restaurants. Furthermore, these lycra clad men and women will have families and friends back home – so they are potential ambassadors for the New Forest. Putting tacks onto the road, or removing signs in an attempt to ruin someone’s day (or worse, cause injury) shows a blatant disregard for safety and property.
The reasons cited as to why cycling is an issue range from the ‘tranquility’ of the New Forest being spoiled, to the ‘danger’ cyclists pose to people and animals. Quite why there is no uproar against all the cars that come into the Forest each year, causing congestion, pollution and the deaths of animals suggests underlying reasons for the opposition are not being aired. As a result the National Park Authority has drawn up a cycling code (which you can currently find on this site here) to try and alleviate tensions and provide some guidance. However this has not been without criticism. Sion Donovan, communications officer at the New Forest National Park Authority, is quoted as saying: “There was a bit of a reaction on social media asking why there is a code for cycling and not for motorists. There were a lot of people thinking this is the Authority imposing their will on local people.”
Cycling is a pastime that is experiencing rapid growth. This is a good thing and should be encouraged. It promotes good health, is great for the environment, and it’s quiet! Whilst the status quo is suffering as a result of this new found (or rekindled) love of two wheels, it’s here to stay. Cycle New Forest is all about inspiring people to get on their bikes and enjoy this beautiful part of the world, sharing it with others on four wheels, four hooves or just two feet.