This closed roads sportive has already got a few locals up in arms. See note below from Ian Thatcher (who?) and a parish clerk:
Whilst I 'get' such events as the Tour de France (more than just a bike race?), do events with long road closures (assuming the necessary closures will be obtained) really benefit 'cycling' overall? I suspect not, but would welcome comments (before it's discussed at my local parish council) especially from anyone who experienced 2017 Velo Birmingham (from either side of the fence).
Subject: Velo South - 100 miles of closed roads - Disruption to the communities of West Sussex
Dear Parish Councils on cc: The email below is intended as supporting context to any briefing received concerning the forthcoming Velo South event. I politely request that both the information and sentiment in this email be distributed and communicated to parish councillors. Equally I encourage the topic of Velo South road closures to be added to any forthcoming parish council meeting agendas. The delivery of Velo South proposes a significant disruption to our communities, the full effect of which has not been communicated to residents and isn't intended to be communicated to residents until it is too late for those affected to have their say. Please advise any parishioners that may or may not be affected by this event to stay vigilant for TTRO applications on council websites made by CSM Active, or Velo South (that are currently being applied for) to ensure that any concerns are raised NOW. The mechanism to voice concerns can be found here: https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/roads-and ... -on-a-tro/
I urge parish councils to lobby and petition organisers and stakeholders to reconsider the proposed event in it's current design and format to prevent county-wide disruption.
Members of the press: This email is intended as an alternative briefing to press releases published by CSM Active and associated councils regarding Velo South. I encourage you to challenge both the associated councils and CSM publicly to ensure proper engagement, rigorous planning and accountability to avoid a repeat of the chaos created by Velo Birmingham in our county.
Dear Ali and Alicia, (key stakeholders, parish councils and members of the press cc'd)
Having spoken with yourselves and many of the main operational stakeholders regarding the forthcoming cycling event, Velo South, I wish to raise a number of points that I feel urgently require greater transparency.
Briefing for those not aware: CSM Sport & Entertainment LLP (CSM Active) is bringing a cycling event to West Sussex under the name Velo South. Velo South is advertised as a cycling road race hosting 15,000 riders on 100 miles of closed roads in West Sussex on 23rd September 2018.
Velo South is the sequel to Velo Birmingham, a cycling event of the same scale, 15,000 riders, that caused widespread disruption to residents of Birmingham and surrounding villages in 2017, resulting in acts of sabotage by local residents following complaints of a lack of sufficient consultation. Subsequently Velo Birmingham has not been allowed to return in 2018.
Press coverage: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats- ... e-14229058
I raise the following points:
1. Have the lessons from Velo Birmingham been learnt?
I observe a distinct void between the publicity materials you've distributed promoting Velo South and what you're actually permitted to deliver. I also observe that you currently do not have permission to close 100 miles of roads, as per the route advertised, and operational and logistical sign off is still subject to approval at council level. I also observe that there has been no engagement with residents due to be affected by the proposed road closures.
With the support of a small working group within West Sussex County Council, Horsham District Council and Chichester District Council and a top level agreement, Velo South has already delivered multiple launch events, emails and social media posts selling the 100 mile closed road route event without a single nod to residents, or logistical approval at a council level. Quite simply, it's false advertising and a repeat of the strategy seen with Velo Birmingham - sign up riders first, ensure the commercial interests of the event are prioritised and then field enquiries from communities and residents at the point of no return.
Questions that I have put to Velo South concerning the proposed route and logistics have so far resulted in unclear answers. No resident liaison plans, no clear logistics plans, contingency plans, maintenance schedules, marshalling, or clear up plans have been communicated - yet I believe tickets are sold out and I believe TTRO applications are underway. If this is the case then there must be plans in place? Why are these not being communicated and why are residents not being consulted?
Given the media coverage of the disruption in Birmingham, I ask the question - If the city of Birmingham with comprehensive infrastructure cannot deliver this event successfully, then how are the country lanes connecting the rural communities of West Sussex supposed to? In our local area a fallen tree, or something as tragic as a road traffic accident can cause huge detours (closing a 50 metre stretch of road for essential re-surfacing work caused us a 45min detour recently) and if you close some of the roads as currently advertised, there is simply no way around - even pedestrian access will be impossible on narrow country roads with no pavements.
According to council policy when applying for TTROs the following terms must be considered:
· "For restrictions involving closures and prohibited movements you will need to think about access for pedestrians and emergency vehicles, and access to properties within the proposed restriction. You will need to provide details of access arrangements on the form. Vehicular access to properties adjacent to a highway may not be prohibited for any more than 8 hours in any period of 24 hours and it is compulsory that emergency services can gain access to all properties within the restricted length at all times."
· Applicants are required to undertake advance public notification, such as a letter drop, to affected parties advising them of the proposed works or event.This will include, but not necessarily be limited to:
· all properties (residents and businesses) fronting the highway affected
· bus companies using the affected road and any diversion routes
· police, fire and ambulance services
This has simply not been the case to date, (perhaps excluding some liaison with emergency services) and I therefore ask you to remove all advertising of the route until due process is complete and feasibility studies have been shared to reassure local residents on matters such as mobility, health and safety and access.
2. What benefits will be seen by the region through an event of this format?
Many of the local villages already endure a multitude of unregulated cycle club events and the activity of cycling is strongly represented in the county. Indeed other large cycling road races that will be held in West Sussex this summer include the Sussex Gran Fondo, Ups and Downs, Haywards Heath Howler, South Downs Epic, Orro Sussex Downs Classic, South Downs 100, Fallen Leaves, to mention a few. I believe the Orro Sussex Downs Classic occurs just two weeks before the proposed date for Velo South. This also doesn't include the weekly training rides hosted by some of the 24 cycling clubs that are in the county, or indeed visiting cyclists. I can assure you that there are plenty of cycling opportunities offered within the county without this event and I observe an underlying surge in resident's frustration with road dominance and poor etiquette.
Velo South is being run by CSM Sport and Entertainment LLP, a Sebastian Coe led private company that generated over £100 million in turnover last year. Tickets for Velo South are as much as £150 per rider. Multiply this by 15,000 riders and it represents not an inconsiderable sum of money, well in excess of £10million in fact (allowing for a variation in ticket price). However the commercial benefit to West Sussex, and more specifically the local community, has not been communicated. What are the commercial benefits to the county?
Large sporting events usually offer an upside - entertainment, commercial uplift, inclusivity, fostering sport, or charitable donation to the areas that are hosting. For example, when the Tour De France came through our village it brought real benefit to the community through improvement to the roads. In the case of Velo South however, we see no evident support of the county, or indeed the local communities. It is clear that this event meets the needs of an exclusive group of riders without care or consideration for the greater needs of the county, or indeed the communities it relies on disrupting to deliver.
Velo South supports popular, national charities, with currently no publicised support being offered to local causes, South Downs National Park projects, local infrastructure projects, local community or sporting projects etc. For example, in our village we have a live community project to refurbish our recreation/sports ground and village car park, so more may come and enjoy our area. These projects will not see a benefit, nor will our local businesses, to which there will be no access during the proposed road closures.
Based on these observations I challenge CSM and council stakeholders with the following questions:
- Please could you disclose the commercial arrangements between CSM Active and the collective of councils, the revenue projected and how that revenue will be invested in the county?
- If the local councils are being paid for the privilege of hosting the event, where will that funding be spent and can we be assured that it will be used to support those areas impacted?
- Who will bear the cost of stewarding, emergency service support etc, not to mention the clear up?
- Equally, how much will CSM Active be charged for the large emergency service and Highways management resource that will be required to deliver the event as promoted?
- Could those involved share insight into how this event will benefit local causes beyond a select few private landlords and hoteliers (some of which will be national chains)?
We would be happy to issue a freedom of information request if you feel you cannot be forthcoming.
3. Exclusivity, not inclusivity
Let's be clear: cycling is exclusive and not inclusive. Velo South is exclusive, so I do not understand why we are giving this event such a platform?
According to CyclingUK.org and the British Social Attitudes survey of adults over the age of 18, 69% "Never Cycle" and only 31% "Cycle". It's a male dominated activity with three times as many male as there are female riders and four times as many cycling miles covered by males than females. The largest age segments of riders falls between 21 and 49. For Velo South it is clearly stated that riders must maintain an average speed of 11mph, and tickets cost as much as £150. If sentiment on social channels from Velo Birmingham is analysed there is comment that it was an adult male dominated event and women and children were under represented. These are not facets of an inclusive event.
Velo South is being advertised using the following rhetoric "...provide an excellent opportunity to showcase our unique district at it's best - an exhilarating ride for the competitors and a real spectacle for local residents and visitors to enjoy". Indeed, Lawrence Foord, licensing for Chichester District Council, remarked to me "it is wonderful for the county to attract an event of this calibre". I don't however understand why? We see hoards of cyclists every weekend on our lanes, so I hypothesize that the majority of locals really aren't interested. Has anyone conducted a survey around local, or county attitudes towards cycling? Additionally our county has strong GDP and CVA rankings and being within the South Downs National Park, tourism is strong. So what are we showcasing and to whom, and for what purpose? Why do we need it? What's the benefit?
My observations are - a small working group within the associated councils have committed to a partnership with a global corporate who are now profiteering from a current vogue pastime amongst an elite male fan base. Advertising is false, organisation is not transparent and is currently unapproved at a logistics level. It is set to bring countywide disruption for the majority, with a sport that is already well (over) represented for the minority, with little consideration of the impact on local residents. This is not an event for all the family, and with the numerous cycling events we have inflicted on us I suggest that this will not be a 'real spectacle to enjoy', but merely another source of frustration.
Given the current lack of engagement with the community, the proposed scale of the event and time pressures with the TTRO application threshold, I call for this event to be postponed to 2019 or 2020. This will allow for sufficient liaison, consultation, planning and reconsideration of the design and scale of such an event so that it's viability, or feasibilty may be properly assessed against a criteria that is truly inclusive and offers better value and benefit to the county of West Sussex beyond that currently proposed.
I look forward to a response - and not a press officer "It will be great for the county and we'll be on hand during the event to help local residents" response. A proper response please.
Thank you for your email, which I will circulate to my parish councillors.
You are quite right that there is an underlying surge in residents’ frustration regarding cycling events. This is certainly true in Plaistow and Ifold parish. During certain times of the year, our villages and narrow country lanes are turned into race tracks, with the ever-increasing frequency of sportives being the major problem. Residents are increasingly being verbally abused by cyclists and marshals and we’ve also experienced a couple of injuries. Once they’ve finished using our village as a race track, we’re then left to pick their rubbish out of our hedgerows.
Cycling organisations have a strong voice and are keen lobbyists. I agree that the voice of residents also needs to be heard.
CLERK TO PLAISTOW AND IFOLD PARISH COUNCIL