Cyclists have called for the introduction of more cycle-friendly trains as thousands of riders faced being banned from taking their bikes on the rail network for this weekend's London to Brighton ride.

Riders will cycle the 54-mile route from the capital to the city on Sunday in aid of the British Heart Foundation (BHF), an event which has raised more than £35 million since 1980.

Yet the perennial problem of not being able to take bicycles on board all Southern Trains on the day has triggered anger among cyclists who predict chaos on the roads.

Southern Trains said that since the old Mark I slam-door trains were phased out in 2005, there is now little room on its new 377 Electrostar trains to accommodate cycles.

But the decision to ban all forms of bikes, including folding cycles, on Sunday has prompted calls for the Government to introduce a cycle-friendly policy for rail operators to abide by.

David Holladay, of the Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC), said a Government White Paper, due to be published shortly, should address the inflexibility of some trains in carrying bicycles at busy times.

He said: "We want to see in this White Paper our concerns about the inflexibility of some trains in their design addressed.

"We want to see trains capable of having their seats flipped up during events like the bike ride in order to carry bicycles.

"We want more trains designed with thoughtfulness like South Western's Class 455, which has got easy access to bike spaces.

"We have got to look at having a national strategy on the rail network so that we have trains working during the big events instead of sitting in the sidings."

Tony Green, treasurer and membership secretary of Brighton and Hove's cycle campaign group Bricycles, said some rail firms have stepped back in time.

He said: "It seems crazy that 15 years ago we had old slam-door trains with guard's vans capable of carrying some bikes, yet now with the introduction of more modern trains you can rarely take your bike on board.

"It's very frustrating and I think it just encourages people to use their cars instead."

Ian Davey, of Brighton-based cycling charity Bike For Life, said: "The obstacle of people not being able to take their bikes on board trains, or the uncertainty of being able to take their bikes on, is a real discouragement for riders.

"When Labour came to power, there was a big fanfare made about making sure there was adequate provision for bicycles on trains, but it seems to me that has clearly failed to be implemented.

"There will be absolute chaos on the roads on Sunday, as there is every year because people are having to drive into London to take part. It's absolutely absurd."

Rail operators defended their position and said priority must be given to foot passengers and wheelchair users.

A Southern Trains spokesman said: "When we had the old slam-door trains we used to be able to accommodate up to 50 bicycles in the guard's van but that is not possible with the new rolling stock.

"People who will be competing will be doing so through the BHF and they will be laying on transport for bikes."

Criticism has also been levelled at Southern's policy of banning all non-folding bicycles heading towards London or Brighton during morning peak times and away from the cities at busy evening times.

How has the bike ban affected you? Leave your comments below.

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