Fringe Box



Lib Dems Criticise Cycle Event Decision Taken ‘In Private’

Published on: 29 Oct, 2013
Updated on: 3 Nov, 2013
A colourful spectacle once again.

The Prudential RideLondon Surrey Classic passing through Gomshall in August

A decision to allow the Prudential RideLondon Surrey Classic cycling event to take place in Surrey was taken in private, the Lib Dem leader, Cllr Hazel Watson (Dorking Hills) at County Hall has claimed.

The revelation is contained in a written response from Cllr Helyn Clack (Con, Dorking Rural) the cabinet member for community services to a question posed by Cllr Watson.

Some Surrey residents have complained about the road closures necessitated by cycling events and other inconvenience the complainants  feel is caused.

In her reply to Cllr Watson, Cllr Clack wrote: “Cabinet took the decision to support the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 and Classic events. In coming to their decision, they balanced the economic, community and health benefits to the whole county against the disruption that road closures regrettably cause.

“Experience from world class annual sporting events such as the London Marathon has shown that they bring maximum benefit if run over a number of years…

“In its inaugural year, the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 has helped charities raise an extra £3.5 million and raised the profile of the county as hundreds of thousands of people around the world watched live coverage of Surrey.”

Cllr Watson said: ”The only formal decision made by Surrey County Council about the Prudential RideLondon Surrey Classic event was made in a meeting in December 2011 and that meeting was held in private.

“This means that Surrey residents and businesses have had no opportunity  to scrutinise or raise concerns about the decision to allow the Prudential Ride London cycle event to be held in Surrey before the decision was taken despite the significant impact on many Surrey residents and businesses as a result of lengthy road closures as well as a commitment to allow the event to take place in Surrey for 5 years.”

Cllr Watson added: “It is unclear when and who made the decision to allow the event to take place in Surrey for 5 years from 2013 as the only formal decision by the Cabinet in December 2011 made no reference to a 5 year commitment. I am continuing to raise questions with the Cabinet at their next meeting to find out who made this 5 year commitment so that they can be held to account.”

”Many Surrey residents are dissatisfied with the lack of consultation by the Conservative-run County Council relating to allowing these cycle events  to take place in Surrey, which involve lengthy road closures and the land locking of many residents and businesses. It now transpires that the decision-making relating to these cycle events was far from open and transparent, and may not have met the legal requirements for such a decision to be taken.”

Surrey County Council Leader, David Hodge, responded to the Lib Dem claim saying:The residents and businesses of Surrey felt the Prudential Ride London Surrey Classic event was a resounding success.

“We have listened and learnt from all the feedback we receive and will ensure that it goes from strength to strength.

“The Lib Dems clearly do not understand Surrey’s electorate, as shown at May’s elections where we, the Conservatives, stood on our local record and were swept back into office with an increased majority whilst the Lib Dems ceased to be the sole opposition party on the council after their support halved.”


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Responses to Lib Dems Criticise Cycle Event Decision Taken ‘In Private’

  1. Paul Robinson Reply

    October 27, 2013 at 6:40 am

    Apart from the obvious health benefits to the competitors what are the health benefits to the majority of Surrey residents?

    It would be interesting to see who these residents & businesses are who felt the Classic event was a success. Let’s have some names in the frame.

    • Peter Andrews Reply

      October 31, 2013 at 7:22 am

      Hear, hear. Some information please councillors. I voted to put the Conservatives back into power.

  2. Keith Chesterton Reply

    October 28, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    I enjoyed watching the Olympic rides in Surrey, as did tens of thousands of other people. I’m glad the Prudential Ride built on its success and I look forward to the next 4 years too.

    One day a year advised well in advance for a road closure is no big deal. We have road closures for part days for lots of events: the judiciary procession in Guildford, Armistice Day commemorations, bonfire nights and village fêtes, for example at Peaslake.

    The London Marathon entails lots of road closures: who objects to that?

    20,000 people cycling a 100 miles plus acts as an inspiration to others to take up cycling, is a spectacle to be enjoyed and as a by-product lots of money is raised for deserving charities.

    Stop carping start enjoying!

    • Dick Thomas Reply

      October 31, 2013 at 6:08 pm

      I guess Keith Chesterton would start carping if he was prevented from leaving his home when he wanted to on three Sundays during a two month period.

      The closures also ensured that the dates of regular events in Surrey (such as Cranleigh Show) had to be moved and as a result suffered a downturn in visitors. Many other businesses lost money and yet Surrey County Council and others crow about the economic benefits.

      I haven’t yet found anyone who actually benefited from the event.

    • Nigel Scott Reply

      November 1, 2013 at 10:57 am

      If only it was just the road closures. It’s also the days when large groups of cyclists in a peloton try out the route to see what it’s like. These groups ignore the Highway Code and cause danger to themselves by assuming that they are more important than car drivers.

      Cycling is one of many hobbies or sports that we can take up. Why are our Tory Councillors fixated with it? Maybe they all run cycle shops.

  3. Paul Robinson Reply

    October 28, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Keith Chesterton says: “One day a year advised well in advance for a road closure is no big deal.” Well it is when I have to drive an extra 22 miles to get to and from work. I don’t begrudge the Olympic event, but this Prudential event will not be just for five years, it will be forever. Once the organisers have got their foot in the door with an established event, that is it.

    “We have road closures for part days for lots of events” – The key word here is “part”. The roads aren’t closed all day with people locked in to their home’s immediate locality.

    “The London Marathon entails lots of road closures: who objects to that?” Err… that doesn’t close several major routes in Surrey.

    Just spread the event around all the counties surrounding London, a different county each year.

  4. A. Edward Ordish Reply

    October 28, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    David Hodge’s comments about Lib Dems ‘not understanding the electorate’ are a bit rich, especially from a man who came a whisker of being hoofed out at the last elections, by UKIP.

    Perhaps Cllr Hodge has failed to notice which way the electoral wind is blowing and that more than twice the number of Surrey residents who voted for him, have now signed a petition totally condemning his annual road closures, wholly undemocratic closures that shut down thousands of miles of Surrey’s road network (yes, thousands, because every road that meets the damned racing route is also shut off).

    Individuals, businesses, villages, communities are ‘kettled’ in their roads for up to fifteen hours so cyclists can have a jolly and commercial sponsors can make money, whilst many Surrey businesses and scores of thousands of residents in Surrey suffer. It’s really sad that Cllrs Hodge and Helyn Clack do cycling such a disservice with this insane focus on racing cycling, rather than promoting cycling as part of everyday life.

    Cyclists I meet and talk to whilst out on my bike confirm my impression that Surrey motorists are behaving far more aggressively towards leisure cyclists since all this racing madness started. As for Surrey residents, just have a look at the petition to see what thousands of them are saying about the treatment they are receiving every weekend at the hands of Lycra-clad boy-racers.

    In southern Surrey alone there have been more than 250 organised cycle races this summer (in addition to the road closures). Hopefully, the police will soon be granted increased powers to control cycle racing on open roads and stop events which are deemed unsafe or antisocial. It really is madness that any racing is allowed on open roads.

    How can someone be a safe road user if their primary focus is racing against a clock, or another cyclist? I’d like to see how the police would respond if I tried to organise a 100 person moped race on Surrey’s narrow lanes every weekend. I suspect the answer, quite rightly, would be ‘no’.

    The real solution to all this is: Cycling? ‘Yes please’ – Cycle racing? ‘No thanks’.

    And guess which sport tops the annual league table for drug doping and other use of banned performance enhancing substances? You’ve got it in one. Great role model eh?

    Finally, well done Cllr Hazel Watson for trying to shine a light on how Surrey County Council’s undemocratic decisions about annual road closures were made and by whom. Just who were they meant to benefit? We shall see.

    • Ian Franklin Reply

      October 29, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      I would say to Mr Ordish, and anyone else who does not understand, I doubt there have been 250 “races”.

      You would have probably been unaware of most of the races. Road races run under the auspices of British Cycling/Surrey league and the League of Veteran Cyclists generally take place on quiet roads and require police permission. Have a look at: some races of which are on closed circuits at Dunsfold.

      I think races have been confused with “sportives”, which can be organised by anyone and do not require police permission. Perhaps this might surprise you but I do agree that these sportives do need regulating.

      Many are run for good causes, but many are just money making events for the benefit of businesses. Racing on the road is not a new phenomenon. Subject to police permission it has taken place since the 1950s.

      I don’t think the issue relates to Surrey as a whole but the Boxhill area. Quite how the distinction between a legitimate club run and an event will be made, I don’t know. I do know that I, and many others, give Boxhill a wide berth. But I wonder if the Boxhill tea rooms run by the National Trust are complaining?

      Oh and drugs. Why are more cyclists found out? Because they are tested more frequently and thoroughly, in an out of competition, often unannounced at 5.00 am. Unlike football and many other sports.

  5. Ian Huggins Reply

    October 30, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    I am always amused by comments made by people who are not affected by road closures.

    For the record there have been:

    120 Time Trials
    46 Road Races
    70 Notified Sportives
    9 Triathlons

    The source of this data is Surrey Police.

    Clearly there has already been far more than the one road closure that people think is acceptable. ‘Kettling’ and confining residents in their own homes unable to get out is not acceptable, neither is closing down businesses, even for only a day.

    If, and when, it is your turn to be housebound for 14 hours, against your will, please remember your lack of consideration and reflect that there are several thousand people already being seriously affected by this cycling phenomenon.

    Please don’t confuse leisure and touring cyclists with the hoards of “racing style” peletons. Everything should be done to aid the safe use of our roads for mum, dad, the children and anyone wishing to commute by cycle but we are nowhere near ready or able to facilitate this in the UK.

  6. K West Reply

    October 30, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    I work in a shop at the bottom of Guildford which had to close for the day because of the cycle events.

    Although I work in the shop, I am self employed which meant that I lost out on the income for that day. Being a small shop we lost a days takings. Originally we were going to open but, as we experienced with the Olympic race, the pavement outside our shop was crowded from the curb to our window. With the nearest car parks closed and the road closing from lunchtime and barriers erected overnight to stop people parking, we decided to close.

    If the race had been on a Sunday instead of the Saturday, it would not have affected us. If we had been given the chance to air our concerns over this we would have been against the race/event. If consultation had happened, then we would have raised the issue of compensation for businesses who had to close or be restricted in their trade. But the first we knew of it was when the council started putting up signs for the road closures.

  7. Roy Allen Reply

    October 30, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Keep fighting for the people of Surrey who are fed up to the back teeth with these packs of cyclists and road closures. David Hodge and his gang have forgotten they are supposed to support their voters and the people of Surrey, not Boris Johnson and Prudential.

  8. Bob Hobden Reply

    October 30, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Everyone is talking about the number of races but that is only half the problem.

    All year the “Lycra Louts” are out practicing these routes causing problems for residents along those routes. They think they are racing and take no heed of the rules of the road even to the point of riding round roundabouts the wrong way, because that is what the racing guys do, as a friend in Byfleet discovered.

    Councillors, you are there because of and for the residents of Surrey, stop pandering to the Lycra Louts who don’t care about you or your voters.

  9. Richard Ockenden Reply

    October 31, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Nicely exaggerated by Mr Hobden, in my view.

    The “lycra louts” are a very small minority of riders unlike the majority of car drivers who break the speed limit. Most riders obey the highway code it’s just that most car drivers don’t know the rules.

    Car drivers don’t like being held up, yet every day when I cycle to work, I am held up by queues of cars everywhere.

    And none of the races races mentioned by Ian Huggens have road closures except the Pru.

    The event is heavily oversubscribed so there are plenty of people in support. The reliance on a car by some people is verging on pathetic.

    • Mary Ferdinand Reply

      November 1, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      A sports cyclist cheerily yelled, “Nice day, isn’t it?” when I stopped at a red light in Esher High Street. Then gestured me to go on through so he could do the same. When I didn’t he yelled, “Well, f••• you, then,” and did what he wanted to do anyway, run the red light. If they’re a minority, why do I keep meeting them?

      Sports cyclists are using the roads as a cycling track, not for getting to work. Cycling to work has more environmental cred than I could hope to aspire to and I won’t wander off topic to even try.

  10. Michael Holingsworth Reply

    October 31, 2013 at 1:41 am

    As Bob Hobden rightly points out, this problem is not merely confined to scheduled races but is an every weekend event. I live near Shere and we are inundated with these cyclists year round every Saturday and Sunday. On the narrow lanes they choose a backlog of cars build up behind pack after pack and motorists understandably become impatient. Frustration inevitably occurs with imprudent overtaking on blind bends.

    Local opinion here is that a major accident will inevitably result. It is only a matter of time.

    The cyclists themselves appear more concerned with their time trials/’personal bests’ over a distance and view having to slow down or stop as prejudicial to their objective and can be highly abusive when obliged to do so. Their ‘targets’ seem to take priority over road sense and courtesy to other road users.

    I think that most residents would be reasonable regarding the odd race in the annual calendar on Surrey’s roads but this is a weekend phenomenon: a plague, largely unsupervised, unregulated and unwanted.

  11. Matthew Ellis Reply

    October 31, 2013 at 5:53 am

    I drive parts of the Olympic cycle route on a regular basis. There has been a significant and sustained increase in sport cyclists using the route. This is in addition to other areas of Surrey that have always been popular with sports cyclists.

    If there are benefits to the residents and businesses, what are they? So far the only figure I have seen mentioned referred to charities; a worthwhile but odd figure to cite as a main benefit. Be specific and tell us what they are. For instance: how many extra residents have been motivated to get on their bikes; how many businesses have opened or expanded? This feels like a council vanity project; something I would not have expected from the Conservatives.

    Ultimately though, for me, the main problem is the combination of increased numbers of sport cyclists understandably preferring to use routes that have become popular in an area of unusually high road congestion. I understand Surrey roads are typically 66% busier than the average.

  12. Chris Leonard Reply

    October 31, 2013 at 9:38 am

    It’s lethal for racing bikes to share narrow, twisting lanes with cars etc. Years ago, on a family holiday in the foothills of the Italian Alps, we were driving along a country road when a crowd of people shouted at us, ‘Corsa, corsa!’ We didn’t understand but clearly they wanted us to stop. Just then a great phalanx of racing bikes sped by, taking up the full width of the road. We thought the Italians were crazy, allowing such dangerous practices but since the Olympics it’s happening here, with increasing frequency. Surely our public roads should not be used for racing, not by cars, horses, motor-bikes, cycles… anything.

    As for televised bike races attracting more people to Surrey, surely we’re over-crowded enough here (and in London) already. With the Olympics based in London, I guess the Surrey hills were the obvious choice for a one-off but if there has to be a big annual road race, why not rotate it around cities near higher hills where the roads are less well-used: Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, those near the Pennines…? Elite races where Surrey’s mere bumps of hills fail to sort the top riders from the rest become boring for spectators.

    It’s also terrifying if a medical emergency begins to develop when a ‘closed road’ race separates you from A & E. I speak from personal experience this year. During races within London it may be possible to dive down the tube to get about. If routes outside London were linear, as in the ‘Tour de France’, at least they would not lock people within a closed circle.

  13. Dick Thomas Reply

    October 31, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    David Hodge is quoted as saying, “The residents and businesses of Surrey felt the Prudential Ride London Surrey Classic event was a resounding success. We have listened and learnt from all the feedback we receive and will ensure that it goes from strength to strength”

    Frankly I think he is deluding himself. Where are all these residents and businesses that think it was a resounding success?

    If he is listening then he will realise that there are vast numbers out there who would dearly love to see the event cancelled forthwith. I dread to think what going from strength to strength actually means, not, I hope, any further encroachment on our countryside.

  14. Alan Guy MBE Reply

    October 31, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    My bowls club had to cancel a game against Byfleet Village because Byfleet was cut off due to the cycle race. On one occasion, several war veterans were unable to leave Byfleet Village to attend their monthly meeting due to a race. One of the veterans who had received a mention in despatches for bravery complained and was told by a cycling enthusiast that he “should be more patriotic”. What an insult.

  15. Ollie Owen Reply

    October 31, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    We hear a lot about this £3.5 million raised for charity. Which charities benefited, by how much each, and how was this money raised exactly? Against the sums raised, how much money have Surrey councillors spent on PR, policing and organising the event. I don’t believe Prudential pays for it all but it would be nice to know how the sums stack up. I think we should be told. There are plenty of healthy activities Prudential could sponsor if it really cared so much. How about walking?

    As for promoting Surrey, I didn’t see any of the TV news organisations report the event. It is called Ride London (no mention of Surrey). The live coverage looked pretty boring. I couldn’t even stay with it long enough to see my bit of Surrey. It is hardly going to have viewers on the edge of their seats or crowding into pubs with big screens. Does anyone know how many people bothered to watch it and for how long. And how exactly has the event benefited Surrey ‘economically’ when the local businesses of Surrey have to repeatedly sacrifice their livelihoods.

  16. Michael Peel Reply

    October 31, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Were they confined to minor roads it would be less of a problem. However, the knock-on effect is to cause havoc with public transport, which many of us older people depend on for our mobility. These cycle rides mean I am confined to the house for the period of the road-closures.

    It would be somewhat better to have these events in less densely populated areas. Surely a race is a race, regardless of where it is. Or are the egos of cyclists such that they only want to go were they can be seen?

  17. John Redmond Reply

    October 31, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    There are many articulate views put forward by the likes of Chris Leonard, Dick Thomas, Paul Robinson et al.

    We simply must compensate businesses who lose out due to these events.

    I give cycling commuters a wide berth and my utmost respect. However that, in my experience, is about 2% of cyclists I encounter on our congested roads in this over-populated corner of Europe. The rest are using our roads as a playground.

    How many other “sports” cause such inconvenience to users of roads which were built and maintained to get Surrey voters from A to B?

    I’m thinking of organising a charity cricket match on the Shere bypass next summer – anyone interested?

  18. Bob Hobden Reply

    October 31, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    What I fail to understand is why when we have roads suitable for cycle racing that are little used do we allow it on busy public roads? The Great Park Windsor has lots of roads through it and a route suitable for these racers could be easily mapped out. They would be safe from car drivers and from the anger of residents caused by the road closures.

    I love the comment by Richard Ockenden. So all car drivers speed but there are only a few Lycra Louts on cycles? Obviously Mr Ockenden lives in a different world to mine.

  19. Mike Giles Reply

    October 31, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    It is an unfortunate fact that the manner in which the Prudential RideLondon event has been “imposed” on parts of Surrey is having a truly negative effect on a high proportion of the local populace. This is an event which should, by rights, have been welcomed by the majority for all the reasons that Surrey’s county councillors are proclaiming.

    With due consultation about the route, and the manner and timing of road closures, the inevitable, and undeniably negative consequences so far experienced, could have been minimised to the point of insignificance. As it is, the council is now fighting a rearguard action composed largely of platitudes and unsubstantiated claims of benefits, in a vain attempt to excuse their hasty, but doubtless well-intentioned decisions.

    I fear that many at County Hall had become mesmerised by the romance of the Olympics and the charismatic style of the Mayor of London. They have seen this offspring event through the rose-coloured cycling goggles of a nation entranced by the Olympics as a whole: a once in a lifetime event. It is now time to remove those mood-enhancing lenses and see RideLondon with the clarity which, from the outset, has blessed many ordinary citizens of this understandably popular area.

    To enclose swathes of the county within a racing track, unused for significant periods of the day, in forthcoming years shows impertinence and lack of consideration in the extreme. It will fail to address the many real issues which have been brought to the council’s attention after the 2013 event.

    A great British compromise will no doubt become the order of the day, once the gloves are off and the arguments find legal claim and counter-claim, but why await that unedifying spectacle? There is little harm and certainly no shame in admitting a genuine mistake, and mistake it was.

    For once let logic prevail. Listen to the many well-reasoned counter-arguments and start by obliging the professionals to ride first. Then, by all means implement road closures, but for the minimum duration, not the maximum, which is the established precedent. For ordinary residents, there is a total and extreme difference between swingeing incarceration for the whole of a day and the much lesser inconvenience of recognising that travel will be curtailed during shorter periods.

    And for businesses, if the towns and villages are accessible from time to time, maybe an influx of cycle-watching visitors would actually materialise in the coffee shops, pubs and restaurants, the boutiques and the supermarkets. In 2013, not only were residents locked in for an inordinate and unnecessary length of time, but so were the potential visitors locked out. Where’s the commercial gain in that?

    This is a simplified view. Many hours of deliberation will follow proper and considerate consultation and debate. Many details will require clarification but please, at least begin the process. Get the whole of the county behind an event worthy of being called Surrey’s, then perhaps many more of us will don those rose-coloured cycling goggles to enjoy the day’s trivial excitements, for what they are worth, in between conducting the important aspects of our lives in a civilised and acceptable manner.

  20. Mary Ferdinand Reply

    November 1, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Michael Peel’s reply is brilliantly reasonable, move the cycle races themselves off the main routes.

    We all turned up to cheer for the Olympic cycling events, it was an extra holiday, roads closed off, helicopters, all there together, the supremely bolshie, “F••• the Queen”, Sir Bradley Wiggins. Then it turned into Lycra-clad sports cyclists emulating their cycling heroes (complete with attitude) practising the route for the cycle events through the year and the holiday disintegrated into a horde of skinny bottoms with a set of arrogant mouths at the other end.

    I’m not surprised the essential arrogance of giving Surrey’s roads over to sports cyclists (not the individuals or families cycling for pleasure) for their amusement was underpinned by decisions behind the scenes.

    Now it’s in the open, let’s look at moving the route, preferably onto a dedicated sports cycling track and see whether thousands turn up for that.

  21. Peter Dodd Reply

    November 1, 2013 at 10:21 am

    What really takes my breath away is Cllr Hodge’s sheer arrogance. He talks about a “cabinet” decision and reels off vague platitudes implying that they know best.

    It is now too late to change any of this as far as I can see. We are stuck with it and the lycra louts. One of whom spat on the car window of a friend of mine when she dared to toot as she wanted to overtake and they were all over the road.

    It’s time the traffic police got a grip on this situation before their behaviour gets even worse and we have accidents.

  22. Jeff Hills Reply

    November 4, 2013 at 9:45 am

    It seems that a lot of Surrey County Councillors forget that we elected them to represent us, not to look after their own personal views and beliefs.

    They must learn they have not been elected with a job for life.

  23. Alex Wells Reply

    November 4, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    The events are not the problem. I can handle a day or two once a year with the roads being closed.

    I cannot handle that every weekend the roads of Surrey become a giant cycle track with people from all over coming to Surrey to cycle the Olympic route and ride 2 sometimes 3 wide in a packs of 20-30 down narrow back roads blocking the roads and having to follow for miles and miles before its safe to overtake.

    During the summer months this was a common sight even during the week while trying to get to work and back again.

    Its just becoming dangerous and stupid now.

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