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“Cycling madness” expected to cause Highland traffic chaos

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Hundreds of cyclists will be on a collision course on one of the north’s busiest routes – on the same day the Highland capital hosts shinty’s annual showpiece match.

Road safety campaigners fear there will be chaos on the A82 after it emerged 800 riders taking part in a cross-Britain event will be confronted by more than 260 others heading in the opposite direction.

And at the same time, thousands of fans will converge on Inverness for the Camanachd Cup final between Glenurquhart and Kingussie.

The situation was described last night as “cycling madness” amid fears for the safety of those taking part in the events and other road users.

Lochaber residents and businesses who use the route were already angry that 800 cyclists taking part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain 2014 would be travelling north on the Glasgow-Inverness road on Friday, September 12 and the following day.

Road safety campaign group the A82 Partnership had tried and failed to persuade the organisers to cancel the event, or reroute to avoid the busy trunk road.

They have now learned that another 266 cyclists taking part in the Rat Race Coast to Coast event between Nairn and Ballachulish will be heading in the opposite direction on the road on the Saturday.

Partnership chairman, Brian Murphy, said: “The A82 struggles to cope with the existing levels of traffic, including cyclists, at the moment, and I fear for the safety of both the cyclists and other road users.

“People get frustrated when they get caught behind large numbers of cyclists and start to take risks by trying to overtake in all sorts of daft places.

“This is cycling madness.”

He added that it seemed the riders and organisers were operating within the law and nothing could be done to stop the events.

Mr Murphy said: “We have spoken on a number of occasions to Deloitte and to the organisers, Threshold Sports, but they are not interested in mitigating the negative impact this event will have on the economy of the west Highlands or the impact on normal traffic.”

He added that the group of cyclists travelling south would cross those travelling north around Fort Augustus and along the B862 on the east side of Loch Ness.

He said: “Just to add to the fun, Glenurquhart play Kingussie in the Camanachd Cup Final at Bught Park in Inverness – an event which will draw a crowd of at least 3,000, predominantly from around Loch Ness and Badenoch.”

Lochaber Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Lesley Benfield, pointed out that the region attracted a wide range of sporting and charity events, most of which provided economic benefit to local businesses.

But she added: “However, they also need to be carefully planned and their potential disruption to the local community carefully considered.

“In these cases, local people and businesses are very concerned at the severe impact on travel when the roads are already busy with visitors, with the potential not only for serious delays but also road safety issues.”

The cyclists taking part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain event will leave Land’s End on Saturday, September 6 to cycle to John O’Groats.

Threshold Sports commercial director, Nick Tuppen, said: “We are working with the key local authorities to minimise disruption as much as possible and will continue to do so until the event has passed through the area.”

Meanwhile, the Coast to Coast event, which involves running, cycling and kayaking, is billed as a two-day challenge but offers participants the opportunity to attempt it in one day.

A spokesman for the organisers said: “Our route design and consultation with authorities and stakeholders has ensured a route that interacts very little with the A82.

“We have deliberately kept the route off busy sections of the A82 such as Fort William-Ballachulish, Fort William-Fort Augustus and Fort Augustus-Inverness.”

He added that they would be on the Fort William stretch of the trunk road between 1pm-4pm on the Saturday.

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