Mansfield in Nottinghamshire is proud of hosting the start of a stage of this year’s Tour of Britain, as well it should be – since the race was revived back in 2004 it has gone from strength to strength, and local authorities and tourism agencies are keen to welcome it and the media coverage it provides.
A lot of that, of course, is down to the country’s success in cycling in recent years, beginning with gold medals on the track in the Olympic Games from Athens 2004 onwards, supplemented over the past decade or so by success on the road.
And we’re sure that people will flock to the Nottinghamshire town to cheer on the 120-or so riders taking part in Stage 4 of the race to Newark-on-Trent on Wednesday 6 September.
But as far as Mansfield Borough Council is concerned, it’s the only chance they will have to see a cyclist – professional or otherwise – riding in pedestrianized areas of the town centre, including its Market Place, after it introduced a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) last year, apparently due to a minority of cyclists riding antisocially.
Cycling UK has equated PSPOs, which have also been introduced in places such as Bedford and Coventry, to geographically defined ASBOs.
The charity’s Duncan Dollimore said last year that they are used to “restrict the use of public space and criminalise behaviour not normally regarded as illegal… [like] the pernicious pastime which undermines the very fabric of our society: cycling.”
It has supported cyclists, including ones from Mansfield, appealing against the order, and says: “The PSPO was apparently introduced to address anti-social behaviour of a minority of people who cycled in the designated area.
“It now impacts upon residents, considerate cyclists and disabled people who may use specially adapted cycles to visit the town centre.”
Of course, major bike races, whether on closed roads or with rolling road closures, do see normal traffic rules suspended; one-way systems and red lights are ignored, and pretty much the only thing that will stop the race is a railway level crossing.
So, by all means pop down and watch Mark Cavendish (assuming he’s recovered from injury) and the rest of the peloton set off.
Just don’t be surprised if a particularly jobsworth council official sees it as a chance for some easy ticketing.