A POPULAR cycling festival that’s brought thousands of people to Aberdeenshire over the last decade is leaving the region due to poor road conditions and a lack of support from the council.
Ride the North has also raised £2.2m for charity since its inception in 2011, with more than 1,400 cyclists taking it above the £2m mark in this years event.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Why? Free to subscribe, no paywall, daily business news digest.
Riders travel from across Europe travel to the North-east to take part and see the breathtaking views on offer, with some coming from as far as Germany, Netherlands and Slovenia this year.
But their business, along with the business of more than a thousand others, is now being taken to Angus, due to safety concerns with “virtually no communication” with Aberdeenshire Council forthcoming.
Speaking to the Press & Journal, race director Neil Innes said: “I would still like to run an event in the north-east, as it’s my home and I am passionate about it.
“But that would need someone to address the concerns which have led to this decision.
“And it does not seem that will happen. I feel cut off.”
Innes has faced an uphill battle with the local authority to get the roads he uses for the event fit for purpose.
Injuries happened as a result of the deteriorating roads in 2019 and again at the first post-pandemic cycle in 2022, with a cyclists breaking bones. But the council classed the roads as “low risk”.
“I decided I needed to be stronger, to convince local authorities in the logic of sweeping the roads in the dangerous parts,” Innes added.
“I don’t expect perfection but it was impossible to class the 2023 roads as ‘low risk’.
“I was stronger but failed again in 2023. Thankfully there were no serious injuries this time.”
The organiser then asked the council to sweep the roads himself, but he was told he’d be breaking the law by doing so.
In response, roads and infrastructure head at Aberdeenshire Council, Philip McKay, told the P&J: “Ride the North has become a popular cycling event which not only attracts local riders but also those from further afield which has helped to put Aberdeenshire on the active travel and sporting maps.
“As with any proposed event on the roads network, we work with organisers to ensure activities can be delivered safely.
“We have liaised with organisers of Ride the North in recent years, looking at various aspects ranging from appropriate signage to the preparation and sweeping of roads ahead of the event.
“While it is the case that there are defects on our network, it is also the case that Aberdeenshire’s roads are routinely placed in the top two or three in the annual independent Scottish Road Maintenance Condition Survey.”