It was good to see so many passionate mtbers at the meeting in Church Crookham with the Army last night, whilst the atmosphere did get a little spikey at one point, lots of moderate voices were head and I hope it will act as a wakeup call to the powers that be at the MoD and they will now engage with MTB groups such as TAG.
My main takeaways from the meeting were:
- The MoD have had legal advice that if they’re ever asked they must reply “cycling off metalled tracks is illegal under the 1976 byelaws and the definition of a metalled track is a tarmac road such as Bourley Road”
- Whilst they have to repeat the party line, they did say they would be enforcing it by requesting riders to move on. If the rider was disruptive “again and again” then a ‘warning off notice’ would be issued, if it happened again, another ‘warning off notice’ would be issued but it’d be up to the police to do anything more (they share the notices with the police)
- The primary objective of the meeting from the MoD point of view was to warn the local population about increased use by troops following the return of guys from Germany (27k in total, presumably not all coming to Aldershot) and more importantly there will be several new battalions in the locale who will have very large military vehicles
- They were particularly worried that their trainee drivers would be driving badly in 29 ton Mastiff vehicles with poor visibility and flatten a cyclist / dog walker
- The main impacted area will be the driving training area in Long Valley that is likely to see improved fences etc and enforcement (to be honest this area isn’t that great for MTBing)
- The Army are restricted as to which areas they can use as they’ve given a fair amount up to developers as ‘SANGS’ (when they build houses they have to provide green space proportionate to the residents) and they can’t use the red flag areas if shooting is going on
- There is a consultation on the byelaws that will happen in due course but they couldn’t tell us when or the route by which our views can be made known
- They are considering ideas about how they manage public access – zoning was mentioned. They will appreciate they will need to consult on these following last night.
- Whatever they think about mtbers it’s nothing compared with how much they dislike dog poo!
- 140 mtbers turning up made an impression (some good some bad!) on the MoD and they’re probably puzzling about how they deal with the issue
TAG has got the Lt Col.’s email address and we’ll be trying to engage him directly about a way forward (if nothing else to show him some singletrack so he knows what he is dealing with). We’ll obviously keep everyone informed and we’d welcome hearing from anyone who wants to be engaged.
Finally I’d like to ask all local riders to read the Code of Conduct that is on the TAG website – if we all follow this we will be able to reduce conflict to a minimum and hopefully avoid draconian measures.
Ewan (TAG Chair)