THE man behind a controversial series of mass cycle rides in the New Forest has sought to calm fears surrounding the next event.
Martin Barden, director of UK Cycling Events, outlined a series of measures aimed at preventing the Wiggle New Forest Spring Sportive from sparking another round of protests.
It follows months of controversy over the problems caused by thousands of riders taking part in Wiggle events in the Forest.
Riders have been accused of endangering the safety of walkers and horse riders, swearing at motorists and even defecating at the roadside.
Most of the previous events have been based in the Brockenhurst area, including New Park – home of the New Forest Show.
But organisers were banned from the site last year after a pony round-up on neighbouring land was cancelled on safety grounds.
UK Cycling Events has now decided to use Matchams Leisure Park, sparking fears that Ringwood will experience the same sort of problems seen in other parts of the district. But Mr Barden sought to placate his critics at a meeting of Ringwood Town Council.
Outlining plans to stage the Spring Sportive on April 12 and 13, he pledged that extra marshals would be deployed in a bid to prevent cyclists from causing any upset.
He also said the numbers worn by riders would be more visible, making it easier for any bad behaviour to be reported and dealt with.
The number of entrants would be limited to 2,500, although the figure on the day was more likely to be about 1,800, councillors were told.
Mr Barden said organisers would refrain from publishing individual finish times in a bid to reduce any competiveness among the cyclists.
He was joined at the meeting by Steve Avery, director of park services at the New Forest National Park Authority.
Mr Avery listed the steps taken in response to criticism of previous mass cycling events.
He confirmed that a cyclists’ code had already been agreed and a charter was due to be published by the end of the year.
But councillors warned that cyclists would pass through one of the most built-up parts of Ringwood in the middle of the Easter holidays.
Cllr Neville Chard said he strongly objected to the event, claiming it was not in the interests of his constituents.
However, Mr Barden said cyclists were told to obey the Highway Code as well as observing the event’s terms and conditions.