THE organiser of a mass cycling event that has sparked anger in the forest has spoken to councillors to reassure them ahead of this year’s events.

The New Forest Spring Sportive is due to take place on April 12 and 13, with more than 2,000 cyclists set to take to the roads, going through Ringwood near the end of the route.

Previous years’ events have been criticised by members of the public, who say the cyclists alarm ponies and other livestock, hold up traffic and even defecate by the road.

Martin Barden from UK Cycling Events joined Inspector Rachel Stokes and Steve Avery, director of park services at the National Park Authority, to address councillors’ concerns.

Mr Barden said this was the seventh year the event had taken place and it had followed the same route through Ringwood for the last five years without disruption. He said that in response to input from the Safety Advisory Group, they had made changes including reducing the number of riders to 2,500. He also said it was expected that the actual number of riders would be closer to 1,800.

He promised there would be an increased number of marshals and signs, with marshals on motorbikes. And he said cyclists’ numbers would be more visible so any bad behaviour could be easily reported and dealt with.

Mr Barden also said the individual finish times would not be listed on the website, to reduce competitiveness and a video on how to be a safe cyclist in the New Forest was on the website and would be shown at the event starting point.

Inspector Stokes said the event would not be policed, but officers had had an input through the Safety Advisory Group.

Mr Avery told members cycling events were not regulated, but a cycling liaison group had been set up to develop a charter in response to concerns. A cyclists’ code has been agreed and it was hoped a charter could be agreed by the end of the year.

Councillors were concerned the route passed through one of the most built up areas of the town on a weekend in the middle of the school Easter holidays.

And Cllr Neville Chard asked that it be minuted that he strongly objected to the event as it was not in the interests of his constituents. But Mr Barden said not only must cyclists observe the Highway Code, but they had to sign up to the event’s terms and conditions, and would have a full briefing before leaving.

Marshals would be briefed and instructed not to stop traffic, he said, and a risk assessment would be carried out before the event.