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‘Big Ride In’ on 14 May

‘Big Ride In’ on 14 May

When Tour d’Afrique riders cycle from Blouberg to Cape Town on the final leg of their 4-month journey from Cairo to Cape Town on Saturday 14th May, it will be the first time an international bicycle tour will make use of the City of Cape Town’s new BRT cycle paths.  Tour d’Afrique riders will join local cyclists from all over Cape Town in an event called The Big Ride In – a celebratory community ride along Cape Town’s new cycle paths.

Capetonians are invited to abandon their cars, get on their bikes, rollerblades and skateboards, and using the best route from their homes, converge at the Plaza at the Civic Centre at 12:15 where they will meet up with Tour d’Afrique riders and cycle from there, through the city, to the new EcoPark in Green Point – the official finish line of the Tour d’Afrique. More adventurous cyclists can start their journey in Blouberg at 11:45 and ride along the new cycle path into the city with the Tour d’Afrique cyclists.

The Minister of Transport, Robert Carlisle, and the Executive Deputy Mayor of Cape Town, Alderman Ian Neilson and Councillor Elizabeth Thompson will be among the dignitaries welcoming the cyclists at the EcoPark. An awards ceremony to congratulate the Tour d’Afrique riders will be hosted by the enigmatic TV and Radio presenter JP Naude.

For those who feel like taking things more gently; Capetonians are invited to bring picnics and blankets to enjoy a day of family-friendly music and live entertainment on the beautiful lawns of the EcoPark which will be open to the public from 10:00 am. Organisations and individuals that support eco-friendly transport alternatives, the ideals of re-cycling, investing, developing, and cycling empowerment will be sharing their ideas and products in the EcoTent.

There is also a brand new bike up for grabs.  If you SMS ‘BIGRIDE’ to 36008, you’ll stand a chance to win the bicycle! The SMS costs R5. Funds will go to the National Cycling Academy and Ride Life, managed by Carinus Lemmer.

Organised by The Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN), National Cycling Academy of South Africa (NCASA), Ridelife, Tour d’Afrique (TDA) and the City of Cape Town, The Big Ride In forms part of a larger vision. It is a campaign to mobilise Capetonians through a collaborative pooling of skills, resources and expertise, in realising a shared vision of non-motorised transport in the Mother City, and eventually South Africa.  The Big Ride In aims to create awareness of what has already been achieved in this area and is simultaneously a call for more sustainable transport infrastructure, and for more people to use these city assets towards improved non-motorised forms of transportation.

The Tour d’Afrique Race/ Expedition traverses 10 countries including Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Namibia and finally South Africa. The entire journey south is just shy of 12 000km long. It will take the nearly 100 riders from across the world four months of cycling, before laying down their bicycles at Green Point Stadium’s EcoPark.

The Big Ride In has its roots firmly entrenched in the history of Cape Town. When the founding fathers of the original Argus Cycle Tour were planning an event in 1977 to campaign for the rights of cyclists, they staged what they called “a Big Ride In” from various places into the city. They handed over a memorandum to the city fathers. A year later the first Argus Cycle Tour was held, which has since become the world’s largest timed cycle race. Check it all out at

A brief history of the very first Big Ride in:

Cape Town City Council, in response to a formal appeal by the newly-formed Western Province Pedal Power Association (WPPPA) to the Cape Town Municipality, to provide safe and enjoyable bicycle paths, instructed Councillor Frank van der Velde to receive a deputation that included Bill Mylrea, Louis de Waal, Eric Wale, Koos Slabber and John Stegmann.

Having previously been told that precious funds would certainly not be made available in the absence of cyclists, we were delighted to find Frank receptive and enthusiastic. Big Ride In (1977), and the more ambitious Argus Cycle Tour (1978), were therefore intended to demonstrate to the City Fathers that, given safe car-free conditions, cyclists would appear. A memorandum was handed to then-Mayor John Tyres on the steps of the City Hall, and thereafter he led the group of cyclists,- including Frank, on that now historic tour of Darling and Adderley Streets, that were closed to motor traffic for the occasion.

In 1979 the Cape Town City Council approved funding over three years for our ‘Network of Bicycle Paths’ which would have made Cape Town one of the world’s great bicycle-friendly cities. But the 1979 Bicycle Master Plan was neglected and officially abandoned in 1982 as the mammoth Metropolitan Traffic Plan, which ignored NMT, took centre stage. However, the lobbying continued, and in 1981 consultants HHO Africa were appointed to design a network of bicycle paths in the Rondebosch/Newlands area, to assist cyclists on their daily commute to the local schools. The team, headed by Louis de Waal, developed a network of 22km of paths, after a great deal of public participation meetings and discussions with City Council officials. The Bicycle Demonstration Project was completed in 1985, with follow up studies demonstrating the success of the project at the schools. Since then the need for NMT, as well as the degree of difficulty in providing for it, have continued to rise acutely, making these latest achievements all the more commendable.

For more information about the Willowcreek MTB Challenge on Sat 14 May, please click here.