From time to time there is some conflict between different users of the South Downs Way, however to date there has been no recorded incidence involving walkers and mountain bikes and complaints are extremely rare. Please do check the SDW events page to check if there are any known cycling or other large events taking place on the SDW during your planned visit. Please also note that there are some sections of the Trail where cyclists and walkers routes are separated, notably between Eastbourne and Alfriston. SDW Officer June 09.
Mark Jones, May 2009
I have just returned from a weekend walking the south downs with my young son and have to say I am in shock. The amount of irresponsible 'cyclists' who use this long distance path is amazing. This is the first time I have ever had cause to complain about walking a long distance path. I am in doubt as to whether I will ever do so again and have advised the members of my club not to do so.
On at least 7 separate occasions we were faced with 'cyclists' riding down hill so fast that we had literally to jump to the side of the path out of the way to avoid a collision. Once we had 5 'cyclists' spread across the path coming at us at speed on a down hill section totally obstructing the way. It was chance that the first one on seeing us managed to grab at his brakes and skidded to the side (in front of his friend which almost made them crash into each other) and miss us. They rode off laughing. My son was by this time in a state of shock.
On reaching the hostel we spoke to many others (walkers) who experienced the same, many with very young children. One French family had planned to walk for the week and changed their plans as they felt it was too dangerous! It seems that the name should be changed to the South Downs Cycle path as walkers were far outnumbered by 'cyclists'. Certainly far more than when I walked the path some years ago. I am all for multi use but it appears that a very significant majority of users who cycle do so for a macho man (and woman) test of who can go the fastest without taking out a walker.
I am sure that this is one of many complaints you have had on this subject. I for one am very disappointed that such a beautiful path and area has been totally ruined by the irresponsible behaviour of others. Suffice to say we saw no police, rangers, National Park wardens or any other person able to counteract this situation. Has any thought been given to one side for cyclists and one for walkers? At least then when the inevitable collision and injury when it does occur will show who is responsible.