Setting up your first road race can be tough. But getting the support of the council and the local community will set you up for success.
Setting up your first road race can be tough. Closing roads for events is no easy feat, but if you make the right contacts, stick to strict timelines and befriend your local community to become your cheerleaders you’ll be on track for success.
You will need to get permission from your local council if you want to hold an event in the high street, a public park, or on roads – ask to speak to their events, parks or communities team. Contact them as soon as possible as it takes time for them to consider it properly. The amount of time needed to consider an application varies from council to council, and you can find this information on their websites. If it is not on council property you will need permission from the owner, which might be a housing association, schools or business. Your council will work with you to ensure a smooth and safe event as soon as you submit an application; so the earlier you speak with them, the more they can help to make it happen. If you can’t give the amount of notice they require, then your council may still be able to consider your application or suggest an alternative location.
If you’ve been to one, or have heard of other race directors talk about SAG meetings, they don’t often elicit ‘good vibes’ as far as meetings go. They can often rather seem to represent SAG in the sense of ‘Scary and Gory’ with the faces of several authoritative bodies criticising every aspect of your event. BUT there is good reason to keep them on your good side, for the sake of your participant's safety and for help with the future of your event.
SAG’s are usually made up of representatives from the local authority such as environmental health, licensing, emergency services such as police and fire departments and other relevant bodies. SAGs provide a platform for discussing and advising on public safety and concerns at an event. They aim to help event organisers with the planning, and management of an event and to encourage cooperation and coordination between all relevant agencies.
They are non-statutory bodies and so do not have legal powers or responsibilities, and are not empowered to approve or prohibit events from taking place. However, they can raise their concerns to the licensing authorities. It is the event organiser’s responsibility to take any appropriate action to alleviate these concerns.
The guiding principle is that races presenting a significant public safety risk (whether in terms of numbers and profile of people attending, or the nature of the event activity and/or the challenge of the environment) should be considered for a SAG. Eg. races where participants will use public roads in large numbers, and/or if a festival-style event is being adopted at the finish line with licensing requirements.
Attendance of the event organiser at SAG meetings may be voluntary or required by the Local Authority as a condition of using their land. There is however benefits to be gained from engagement in the SAG process from the outset.
Event organisers may be asked to extend their duty past the boundaries of an event site to include the impact on the local transport network and civil contingencies in the event of an emergency. The advice provided by the SAG and any decisions taken should be proportionate to the risk profile of the event.
Here are a couple of tips when working with Safety Advisory Groups:
If you want your race to use closed roads, you will need to get permission from the Highways Department of your council. Much of this will become clear when interacting with your local SAG. It will be easier to close a cul-de-sac than a main through route, but emergency services will always need to be able to get down the street.
Your council will require you to arrange and place appropriate road signs and barriers. The signs will need to comply with Regulations, but this needn’t be difficult. Some councils lend you the signs, and others will be able to tell you where you can hire them. There may be a charge to cover the council’s costs for checking the feasibility of closing the road. Councils keep this as low as possible, and some waive it entirely for larger events that have been going for years and are truly integrated.
Provided you are not looking to close a large main road which provides key access to town, block large business parks or residential areas, or would cause serious disruption in the middle of the week or on busy holiday days, the council and highways department will usually be willing to work with you to put on a safe event on traffic-free roads.
Before the council and/or Highways can approve anything, you will have to do a lot of planning and put together a comprehensive ‘Event Management Plan’ that you will be able to execute on the day. In this you will need to include a section about how you will manage the traffic management aspect of the event, and once this has been reviewed and approved, then they will be able to accept your application for closures.
You should think carefully about how you can make your event as safe as possible. A risk assessment will also be required for your overall event and should include aspects of the traffic management. This will help you to consider what could happen if certain parts of your closures aren’t managed properly and live traffic mixes with your runners, if people could trip, otherwise hurt themselves and then how you could prevent it happening. If your event begins to get bigger and attracts numbers over 1000, getting some professional help such as an external ‘Health and Safety Officer’ to aid your planning as part of your team could help manage this and prevent future problems. It will also be helpful to have someone experienced to discuss your plans with.
Having an experienced team to help you execute your plans is key to managing your event safely and gaining the support of the council and highways. If they see that the event is just organised by one person with a handful of volunteers, they will have more cause for concern. Building an experienced event team doesn’t have to be expensive and can give you peace of mind for the safety of your event so that you can focus on other things, like growing your race. Here are some roles which are great to have as part of your core race team for road races, in particular for larger ones:
There’s no perfect protocol for emergency services at endurance events, but going without a plan is a rookie mistake that can jeopardize not only a new race director’s reputation, but also the safety of his or her participants. You should make sure to include plans for medical cover in your event management plan to present to the council.
Having the right people on your team, up to date documents and being honest about your planning will get you the support you need from your local authority. Staying in regular contact with them can help you avoid any last-minute permit refusals and will build your relationship with them for future events.
The team at eventrac are on hand to assist with all components of your event. From advice on promoting your event through low cost channels such as social media, to a guided tutorial on a specific feature of eventrac. We are here to help.