Bike charity to patrol Portsmouth roads

A cycle-racing charity is stepping in to help track down owners of weeds that have overrun a trail in Portsmouth. The River Keep isn’t the only area of the city to suffer from the…

Bike charity to patrol Portsmouth roads

A cycle-racing charity is stepping in to help track down owners of weeds that have overrun a trail in Portsmouth.

The River Keep isn’t the only area of the city to suffer from the unsightly spread of crop-eating plants, both carrot and corn. Earlier this year, the Ocean Wave cycle pathway, on the western side of the city, became a dumping ground for at least 150 pieces of turf shredded by the nearby A31 – along with thousands of other weeds.

The problem has flared up several times since 2012, with the city suffering about 25 accidents involving cyclists and illegally-disposed grass and exotic species since 2013.

Now local cycling charities are urging property owners to collect their belongings in order to either trim the overgrowth or mow it down ahead of thousands of tourists heading to the city on their cycle or on foot.

But Portsmouth City Council said they only cut back ‘quickly’ after several fatalities in the late 1990s.

Andy Halling, Head of Labour and Leisure at Portsmouth City Council, said it’s generally dealt with the cases ‘quickly’ by cutting them down, adding: “We go and cut them and get off very quickly. There’s no doubt that these weeds have had a bad reputation to them.”

Nigel Allain was cycling through the River Keep path last Tuesday when he was shocked to see a man throwing large patches of grass around the grass as others took photos of the work being done.

Mr Allain said: “There were people trying to film it, but it just had a strange feel to it.

“There were a number of people out cycling, and nobody around in the field beside the road either.”

He added: “It’s always interesting when you turn around and there’s a random guy throwing a bunch of lawn cuttings up. It’s terrible and really ineffective.

“It’s like having a hoarder who doesn’t get on and the odd shed has gone wrong.”

All charities are working together to launch a campaign ‘Weeds on the Bayview’ to clear and improve the paths.

The riverbed between Portsmouth Road and Waterhole Close is particularly “windy” and could be affected by flooding, so the cycle route is not meant to be ridden at high speeds, Mr Halling said.

Mr Allain added: “It would be good to have a bigger bike-lane that looked more like it would need maintenance, but that could all be a possibility for the future.

“Weeds and speed are completely separate things, but somebody could be killed if they’re not protected.

“Maybe they’ll be more cut back in a month or a year from now. With the flooding and winds, it’s a bad situation.”

The city’s cyclists’ interest group is leading the campaign.

Eddie Powell, spokesman for the city’s Cycle tourists, said: “It’s a very dangerous situation for cyclists. We’re appealing to the owners of the properties to be patient with us and help out.”

Pedestrians are also at risk from the increasing amounts of space being cleared by the weeds, which are like ‘hot potato salad’, he added.

Mr Powell said: “It’s a public asset, and someone, somewhere could be putting this land out as a private development. And it’s a community asset.

“There’s car windscreens and bike exhausts in there. It’s a barrier to us.”

Since 2012, at least half of the illegal grass and weeds in the city’s cycle path have been ripped out by council workers.

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