05 Sep 2016 From the CEO’s desk (August 2016)
It has been just over a year since I started my first day as the CEO of PPA and I thought this would be good time to step back and take stock of what has happened here in those 13 months.
As a start, I’d like to think that we have improved our communication with our members; this letter being one part of a more proactive and informative approach. We deal with cycling-related issues each and every day of the week and have forgotten, at times, that our members would like to be kept informed about what is going on in the cycling environment.
Members were resorting to social media to vent their frustrations, which is often one-sided and ill-informed. Although understandable, we quickly realised that PPA needed to make a greater effort in keeping touch with our members.
Then, the PPA newsletter was simply an online events calendar, without much added value or interaction.
We updated our website and made it more user-friendly.
The PPA Facebook and Twitter feeds are monitored and we try and respond to all queries (whether they be from members or not) within an acceptable time frame.
PPA members are our customers and we aim to provide excellent customer service. I’d like to believe that we have improved our service levels and communication – although, like any business, there is always room for improvement.
Our annual subscription went up by 5% this year, which is below inflation and a commitment to keeping membership affordable.
We have added a basket of tangible membership benefits which offer discounts that allow members to quickly recoup their initial investment. For example, the discount we have negotiated with Cyclesure for bicycle insurance repays your membership within 2-3 months, depending on the value of your bike.
We have a new car rental benefit from Bidvest Car Rental that will be available to members from next week. Also coming in the next few weeks, is a free extra piece of luggage when flying with Kulula.
Our event entry fees remain as low as possible and we don’t aim to make a profit from our own events. If a PPA event does make a profit, these funds are ploughed back into the event budget and used to improve the rider experience.
We value the rider feedback and we sit down every Monday morning for an event debrief, where the positive and negative points are discussed. These debrief notes then go back to the organisers.
EXPANSION AND EVENTS
Three years ago we received an appeal from cyclists in the Free State to “save” the OFM Classic. PPA took over the event and has been running it ever since as part of our commitment to cycling in the Free State.
We organised the new Maluti Double90 team time trial in Clarens in May this year: A new road cycling event that is located outside the Western Cape and is part of our commitment to PPA members in other provinces, and our general expansion strategy.
The complaint most commonly levelled at PPA is that we don’t support road cycling, despite the fact that we are a 50% beneficiary of the Cape Town Cycle Tour, a road cycling event. Mountain Biking is well established in the country with a host of very good commercial event organisers putting on a glut of events. Often there are 2-3 events taking place over a single weekend.
MTB events are far easier to organise in terms of land access, financial requirements and permissions. Road cycling events are becoming more difficult to organise, as urban sprawl, traffic density and road safety play a big role in determining whether permissions are granted to host an event or not.
The South Peninsula is pretty much a no-go area and no events are allowed in the area for next year. Cycling through Kalk Bay on a weekend coffee ride is not the same as a race with hundreds of cyclists taking over one side of the road.
PPA has to apply for event permission, which we do, but the City of Cape Town has the final say. Unfortunately the answers we receive from the City regarding road access for races is nowadays unpredictable.
Hence, we are moving events into the Northern Suburbs, so we don’t lose them.
Believe it or not, it’s the best we can do.
The Hill Climbs are back, with the first one happening on the 11th of September. The first challenge takes you up The Glen – a steep CBD-based climb sure to test your climbing legs.
Two weeks later, we will set up at the Taal Monument for a sprint up the hill.
There is no entry fee for PPA members. This is also a chance to improve seeding in the build-up to the Cycle Tour. We will ask Racetec to consider the weighting of the Hill Climbs and be realistic in their assessment so as to avoid massive jumps forward in the seeding.
An exciting project that I am happy to announce here is the new PPA Cyclosportive series of events. It’s a simple concept:
• 100 km route. Think around Malmesbury, Riebeeck-Kasteel and back.
• Teams of 6 riders.
• Lunch at the finish.
• 4 events per year (same venue & route)
• The event will be timed and if you want to race you can – but teams are also encouraged to use the event as a fun day out on the bike with mates.
We have also been given more access to the Killarney track, which lends itself perfectly to Crit racing. This is certainly not a new concept, but will be an addition to the current list of events. Age Category racing will be included, to help us identify promising junior cyclists.
We are also planning a 12-hour road bike endurance event at Killarney for April 2017.
Getting back to the Juniors and under-23’s: I recently sat down with Barry Austin from Lead Out Academy, who has a really good structure in place to get Juniors to race overseas, to talk about possible collaboration in this regard.
PPA plans to work with Lead Out to identify promising young riders who will be guided and managed through the Lead Out program. The top prospects will be given the opportunity to spend some time overseas and cut their teeth racing at clubs in Spain, Belgium or the Netherlands.
PPA will offer the League events as a platform for them to be noticed and assist with some funding to send riders abroad. We will be communicating with the clubs shortly to give them more details. I hope that this Academy will identify exciting new talent and provide a leg-up in the early days of a potential pro career.
Having said all of that, I remain aware or our primary mandate, which is to promote the interests of cyclists and cycling, in all its forms. We simplify this approach by saying we like to “put bums on bikes”.
PPA is getting more and more involved in the utility cycling space. We speak to the City about cycling infrastructure. We are in regular contact with the likes of BEN, Qhubeka , Open Streets, Bicycle Cape Town and other advocacy groups, to understand where our goals align and where we can work together. We need to find clever ways of getting the poorer communities mobile. Bicycles are an obvious choice, but how do we make it sustainable?
South Africa can be a dangerous place to ride a bicycle and our safety campaign is critical to affecting behavioural change amongst road users and cyclists alike. Cyclists are totally exposed on their bicycles and don’t have a protective layer of metal around them, as a motorist does. Yet often motorists seem to feel threatened by the presence of cyclists on “their road” and seem to forget that here is a fellow human being on a bike in front of them. This behaviour needs to change and through the Stay Wider of the Rider campaign, PPA is committed to playing its part in getting people to shift behaviour.
Our Safe Cycling at Schools campaign is aimed at sensitizing future road users at a young age, but at the same time teaching youngsters the basic rules of the road.
Our members have expectations, in return for their support. We try and look after them.
The cycling community as a whole has expectations of PPA and we try and accommodate them.
We have a social responsibility and we try to play a meaningful role by providing mobility to get to school, get to work ,search for economic opportunities or enjoy like on a bicycle.
While our largest support base is in the Western Cape, I feel that PPA has a role to play in the rest of the country and as the largest recreational cycling organisation in South Africa, we have a responsibility to all cyclists and those that could benefit from owning a bicycle.
PPA is trying to cater for everybody and it has taken me the better part of a year to understand the environment, from sport cycling to social riding and advocacy to utility cycling. Our strategy is taking shape and I firmly believe that we are moving in the right direction.
I hope I can keep relying on your support.