Riders in the Yorkshire Dales are concerned about coping with the increasing volume of cyclists since it was announced that this summer’s Tour de France will start in the region on the 5-6 July.
Although the tourist hotspot has always been a popular biking area, cyclists are now flocking to ride the 78-mile route of the iconic race.
“We’ve always had cyclists, but the volume has been building up since last year, and it can be frightening,” said Susan Midgley, British Horse Society (BHS) access officer for north-west Yorkshire.
“It’s not just the pleasure riders but the competition people. These big groups have their heads down and keep coming fast without warning.”
Ms Midgley is raising awareness to encourage cyclists to behave appropriately around horses — particularly communicating that they are coming past.
The BHS is issuing leaflets and speaking to cycling groups.
Sheila Pilling runs a livery yard for 40 horses at Wilkinsons Farm, East Marton.
“The majority of cyclists are brilliant — they don’t want to get injured,” she said. “But we are warning riders to keep their wits about them as the number of cyclists keeps rising.
“We’ve had a couple of incidents where a cyclist has swerved to avoid a horse, and ended up in a ditch and the rider also fell off.”
Last year H&H reported on the boom in popularity of cycling since the 2012 Olympics, and the problems this causes for riders.
Following 2 serious accidents involving horses being spooked by cycling races — 1 in which a horse died — the BHS called for improvements in safety and further education for cyclists.
Kate Bower, a leisure rider who is on the committee of Skipton Horse Trials, said that “unofficial races are the biggest problem”.
“Mostly there is mutual understanding between cyclists and riders,” she said. “But it’s the large groups and races that spook horses. They need police, road closures and advance warning notices, so that riders can plan their own route accordingly.”
The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has issued a cycling supplement in its newspaper The Visitor 2014, with a small amount of safety information for cyclists meeting horses.
For more information visit www.yorkshiredales.org.uk
This article was first published in this week’s Horse & Hound magazine (Thursday 26 May)