DESPITE the euphoria and vast economic gain generated by the unique Tour of Britain, some pockets of Surrey have hit out against the popular event.
While many welcomed the sight of golden boy Bradley Wiggins tearing through Surrey Streets on Saturday, others blamed county chiefs for acting ‘thoughtlessly’ in their drive to put the county and its boroughs in the shop window.
Union flags and scattered emblems of countries from around the world lined streets in Woking town centre, Knaphill, Chobham, Pirbright, Send and Ottershaw, as some of the greatest athletes ever to pull on Lycra saddled up for the 10th anniversary of the gripping tour. Enthusiasm peeked as Wiggo blazed through the Surrey leg of the eight-day spectacle. And though he was beaten in the penultimate and final stages by former team-mate Mark Cavendish, it was the record-breaking Olympic hero who finished on top overall.
His proficiency in the hotseat was captured perfectly against a backdrop of cheering fans by 14-year-old Katie Ferry as she watched on in awe from Knaphill’s Chobham Road Tour of Britain picnic.
“There was a great atmosphere,” said Katie. “The Garibaldi pub served drinks and the Knaphill Residents’ Association had a marquee.”
But Katie’s love of cycling was not shared by all Surrey residents, and in a bid to prevent the tour or similar events coming to the county’s roads in the future, a petition called ‘Stop Surrey being turned into a cycle track’ has been launched.
Furious Esher resident Ian Huggins, the man behind the campaign, believes Surrey is an unsuitable location for such an event.
“Apart from the obvious dangers to cyclists, Surrey roads are not suitable,” he explained. “Surrey County Council have, without consultation, decided it would be a great idea to use Surrey as a race track.
“This in itself is a thoughtless act, but far more importantly, residents and numerous businesses are being affected by road closures.
“This means some residents are prevented from leaving their property and going about their everyday business.”
Surrey’s economy received an estimated £7.4 million shot in the arm from the 2012 tour, and everybody living along the route was notified well in advance that there would be disruptions to the roads.
Rolling road closures were also in place to help minimise any inconvenience being caused.
Leader of Woking Borough Council, John Kingsbury, believes the tour is essential to building the county’s already enviable cycling reputation.
He said: “Although the recent cycling events may have caused inconvenience to some residents, nevertheless it is obvious from the very large crowds who attended, that residents enjoy the opportunity of seeing international cyclists passing through their locality.
“The increased footfall in the local towns and villages surged. Last year, 15,000 people turned up and were eating in our restaurants afterwards. It is clearly good for business too. The recent Tour of Britain cycle race worked well with rolling road closures resulting in far less congestion than had been forecast. Any residents wishing to comment on recent cycle events should take part in the Surrey Cycle Strategy consultation, run by the county council, which closes on November 1.”
Full particulars can be obtained by visiting www.surreycc.gov.uk/cyclingstrategy