It’s the sort of language you’d expect to hear from an anti-capitalist campaigner, but residents of Surrey are claiming they are being “kettled” by “Lycra louts” on bikes.
Ian Huggins, 68, a resident of Esher, has started a petition entitled “Stop Surrey being turned in to a cycle track” and claims repeated races are hurting local businesses and leaving residents “confined to their homes” because of road closures.
The county has hosted a number of races and public rides since the London 2012 Olympics, including the RideLondon 100-miles cycle last month when 16,500 cyclists took to the roads. This weekend sees the Tour of Britain race between Epsom and Guildford.
Mr Huggins, who runs a clay pigeon shooting business, told The Independent: “I work at weekends so every time there is a cycle event and the roads are closed I lose a big chunk of my income.
“I set up the petition because I was annoyed at being kettled in my own home every time they close the roads, but I’ve been amazed to discover I’m not alone. There are thousands of us who are not allowed out of our own front doors because of these events,” he said. “And despite what Surrey County Council will tell you, local residents have never been consulted.”
So far Mr Huggins’ petition has been signed by nearly 1,600 people. It reads: “Surrey County Council have, without consultation, decided it would be a great idea to use Surrey as a race track ... but residents of Surrey are pestered by cyclists practising months in advance of the event, who ride the route in large numbers from early in the morning shouting at each other.”
A spokesman for Surrey County Council said: “Cycling events have brought fantastic economic benefits to Surrey and people are pedalling to healthier lifestyles but we also want to limit any impact on our residents and businesses and their views are always uppermost in our minds when race organisers approach us.”
According to Mr Huggins it is not just events such as the Tour of Britain that anger residents. “The response from most of the people here in Surrey isn’t so much about the race itself, but the hundreds and hundreds of cyclists coming down our country roads every weekend thinking they are the next Bradley Wiggins.
“They are ill-mannered, they are rude, they abuse the laws of the road and are abusive when you challenge them. It’s not a minority of cyclists, it’s the majority who behave like this.” The Tour of Britain was unavailable for comment today, but other local residents are more welcoming. Jason Fingland, who lives in nearby Shalford, said: “Why can’t Surrey’s roads be used as a cycle track every now and then? You don’t see the resident of the Isle of Man complaining about the TT Races.”
Stuart Cleevely, 39, a founding member of Cranleigh Cycling Club near Guildford was surprised to hear about the petition. “We tend to try split up our rides now so that we don’t have one 50-cyclist peloton blocking the road and we tend to find most motorists are really quite friendly and give us plenty of room. I can understand there may be some frustrations about closed roads, but it’s only a for handful of days in the year.”