There is no doubt that the Isle of Wight is a great place to cycle. Lonely Planet recently described it as a cycling paradise and included it alonside Provence, Tasmania and New Zealand in its list of the 10 best places in the world to cycle. The 100k, signposted, Round the Island route, is an obvious choice for umpteen charity rides and in the last couple of years the big Sportive companies have also got in on the act. The Isle of Wight is 23 miles long and 13 miles wide. How many large scale cycling events can you fit onto a small island before you start to antagonise the local population?
Signs for this weekend’s Sportive join signs from last weekend’s charity ride and 2 waymarked routes
Generally there is very little friction between cyclists and motorists on the Island. In May almost 1700 cyclists took part in the Randonnee. This was followed on subsequent weekends by ‘Pedal for Parkinsons’ and a ride in aid of the local hospice. On 20th May 600 riders took part in the Wight Riviera Sportive which charged a hefty entrance fee and included 25km of closed roads. Signs warning of the road closures went up weeks in advance but there were angry letters in the local paper, particularly from a Canon whose parishioners were unable to attend church – ‘virtual prisoners in their own homes’ he said.
Last weekend the Solent Coasts Cycling Challenge past this way, as did the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust Cycling Challenge. On Saturday and Sunday this week large numbers of cyclists will ride the Wiggle Wight Ferry Sportive, a popular event that has been sold out for weeks. September sees the annual Cycling Festival and in December there is the Wiggle Wight Winter Sportive.
Obviously I am all in favour of cycling events but I do wonder if the number of large scale commercial cycling events that have appeared since 2011 could jeopardise the relations between cyclists and motorists on the island. The Randonnee has been running for over 25 years but there are always people who complain about it. It is however a locally organised, none profit making event. Only the grumpiest of motorists complain about charity events. The big Sportives however are commercial ventures that charge high entry fees and presumably generate a profit. It can be quite difficult to pass large groups of cyclists. Few people mind if this is a one off but if it occurs on consecutive days and consecutive weekends I can see people’s patience wearing a bit thin.
The Isle of Wight is a great place to cycle. I would like as many cyclists as possible to enjoy it but I would hate to see a backlash from angry motorists who feel they are constantly being held up by cycling events. What do you think? Can you have too much of a good thing?