Tensions over 2012 Olympic cycle route crank up a gear
Box Hill in Surrey has seen a dramatic rise in cyclists on its roads – but not everyone is happy
Next summer the world's top cyclists will battle it out in the rolling splendour of the Surrey hills for an Olympic gold in one of sport's most gruelling challenges.
In the meantime those hoping to live out their fantasy of being Mark Cavendish or Bradley Wiggins for a day are converging in record numbers on Box Hill, which plays host to one of the key sections of the flagship road race event during London 2012.
But mounting tensions between cyclists and motorists at the National Trust-owned beauty spot near Dorking have prompted pleas for both groups to learn to share the famous hairpin bends of Zig Zag Road.
This summer, extra police patrols were put on over the weekend to help keep a lid on emotions. Cycling clubs have also been urged to use the hill, which will be scaled nine times by the peloton after setting out from London in the 140km race next July, with respect for others.
Surrey Police confirmed there had been a "handful of incidents" and that the number of cyclists using the road had dramatically increased since it was appointed as an Olympic venue. Local people have complained about riders riding two or three abreast and of aggressive behaviour directed towards overtaking motorists.
Sgt Andy Rundle, of Surrey Police, insisted it was not a case of four wheels good, two wheels bad, but said concerns were being taken seriously. "This isn't an issue solely of cyclists but an issue of increased visitors to Box Hill full stop," he said.
"We are stopping motorists and cyclists and making sure that all road users are mindful that they are likely to encounter increased numbers of cyclists. It is a challenge the local police have to rise to and make sure that everyone is considerate of every other road user."
But cycling and triathlon clubs, who have already been reminded they face £1,000 fines for inconsiderate or careless riding as part of a county-wide crackdown on reckless two-wheelers, insist they also have rights. A number of teams were written to in the summer following complaints by motorists who had been stuck behind large groups of bicycles. According to the Highway Code, cycling two abreast is allowed when conditions are safe. However cyclists should always be in single file when going around a corner.
Adrian Webb, chairman of Redhill Cycling Club, said it was inexcusable for cyclists to be aggressive. But, he said: "Box Hill is not on a main arterial route. It is a leisurely zig zag road up to a small village and a National Trust outlook so it should not be impeding anybody's way. Cyclists are traffic as well."
Michelle Cleverley, of the National Trust, said there had been growing interest from organisers of sportive events. "It's a lovely place and we want everyone to enjoy it. So everyone will have to be a little bit more patient," she said.
There has already been controversy over the decision to use Box Hill for the hill section of the road race events. Cycling fans have complained there will be only limited access because of concerns over wildlife. Mark Cavendish, current world champion, has urged fans to raise a petition opposing the limits.
Sami Khedira to Arsenal: Midfield omitted from Real Madrid squad for Spanish Super Cup
David Gold furious after Carlton Cole parody account mocks up a picture of West Ham chairman as a suspect in the Madeleine McCann case
Paul Scholes: Manchester United need five experienced players who can turn round a desperate situation
Angel Di Maria latest: Manchester United target is Real Madrid's 'best player', says Diego Simeone
Luis Nani exit: The curious case of the Manchester United winger
- 2 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 4 Nicki Minaj 'Anaconda': Singer finally releases predictable video
- 5 James Foley 'beheading': Met police warn public watching murder video could be criminal offence
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Scottish Independence Referendum: Salmond described as 'arrogant, ambitious and dishonest' by Scottish women