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CEO’s newsletter (end-June 2016)

CEO’s newsletter (end-June 2016)

Dear Members: I would like to thank everyone who took the time to send comments and suggestions in response to my request in last month’s letter. I have hopefully replied to all of you personally and I apologise if I have missed anyone. I read every single email and a lot of the content was discussed at our last Executive Committee meeting.

The cycling landscape has changed over the years and we see a lot of riders being far more self-sufficient and getting themselves organised into their own “clubs”. Novice riders get advice from their local bike shops and are up and riding on their own in no time.

With the proliferation of trail networks all around the country, cycling spaces are clearly defined, well marketed and easy to find. On the road, cyclists have formed social groups that get together for rides on a regular basis. Bike shops often have their own clubs and are active organisers and promoters of cycling.

Social media has driven the change in cyclists’ behaviour as well, as Facebook becomes a local noticeboard and What’sApp allows riders to keep in touch with their buddies and get organised for a quick ride after work, or plan the weekend’s riding schedule. If you don’t want to forgo the thrill of a race during a social ride, you can measure yourself against thousands of riders on Strava. You have a race right there in your back pocket.

We all work longer and struggle to balance work, family and leisure time. Funrides and races are often an hour’s drive or more by car and you end up being away from home for most of the day. Ironically, this was one of the main reasons golfers switched sporting codes, apart from the increasing cost. A round of golf, even if you started at first light, was done at lunchtime.

Your feedback last month confirmed what I was seeing out on the roads and trails. Cyclists are up early, go for a social ride with friends, have a cup of coffee and head back home in time for a late breakfast with the family.

Back at the PPA office, we are acutely aware of this and are looking at how we can offer value to our members in the “new” cycling environment.

I’d like to think that we are adapting and still offer our members good value. There are new, exciting, travel-related member benefits on the horizon that you could use for business or leisure travel. These should be announced in July. Other new member benefits are also on the cards.

We are getting more and more involved in the utility cycling space and engaging with the City of Cape Town specifically to see where PPA can assist to improve cyclists’ safety through awareness campaigns, better cycling infrastructure and generally encouraging the City to incorporate cycling into their mobility plans going forward.

I returned last week from a 5-day learning trip to the Netherlands, kindly facilitated by the Dutch Consul General, Bonnie Horbach. We were a small, diverse group with representatives from Western Cape Government and National Department of Transport, City of Johannesburg , City of Tshwane and Gauteng Province, and consultants working on the Cape Town Cycling Strategy. We met with local municipal and provincial government representatives, mobility consultants, NGO’s working with “school dropouts” or encouraging immigrants and refugees to cycle, bike manufacturers, advocacy groups, university professors, engineers, and more. The list of meetings was long each day, but I learnt so much on this trip.

Two things stood out for me: Everyone spoke about “Liveability” – cycling increases the quality of life in cities.

I think, with cycling so ingrained in the Dutch culture, sensitizing citizens to the joy and practicalities of cycling is not of primary concern. Quality of life (time, pollution, sustainable use of resources, efficiency of movement, etc) is.

When meeting with the municipal officials and consultants, there was a clear reference to the cooperative nature in which private and public entities work together for a common goal. They certainly didn’t sugarcoat the issue. They have challenges trying to work together at times, but in the end, everyone pulls together across municipal boundaries for the benefit of the communities.

Interestingly enough, the Dutch cycling “revolution” only started in the 70’s. It took a road death toll of over 3000, of which many were children, for the Dutch to stage large scale (peaceful) protests. The government listened. Without their support, an investment into infrastructure would never have been possible, as transport policy is generally set at government level.

The trip was a real eye opener and all of us made a commitment to have at least one project on the go within a year.

PPA has committed to setting up a ‘Safe Cycling at Schools’ project. We are already working with BEN to compile the booklet and the illustration phase was completed this week.

I would also like to have a PPA utility bicycle distribution program set up within a year. We have met with BEN to give us advice on the specifications of the bicycles and we have spoken to a local distributor to assist us. I met an NGO in Holland that produces their own bicycles and distributes them in Kenya and Uganda. They are interested in setting up a bike assembly plant in South Africa. These are early days, but there is a lot of interest in this project coming to fruition.

On the local front, PPA has been invited to serve on the oversight committee for the “Cross Cape Project”, which is MEC Alan Winde’s vision of a cycling trail from Plettenberg Bay to Cape Town. Phase 1 is the route from Plett to George, but we spoke about the possibility of starting to plot the route from the Cape Town side at the same time. There is still a lot of admin to iron out, but there is an urgency in the committee to get this project going and show some tangible progress. I will post updates as we go along.

Please remember that our new membership year starts on 1 July and if you’re paid up before the end of July, you go into the draw for a great road and mountain bike.

To our upcountry members, or upcountry friends and riding buddies who are thinking about joining PPA: Our membership fee for members living 500km and further from Cape Town is only R170/year. For that, you get a set of benefits that easily recovers your subscription fee. For now we only have an office in the Free State which has established itself nicely and Liandri, our local manager, is working closely with Free State Cycling and local event organisers. Gauteng is on the PPA radar for further expansion and I will keep you posted on our progress.

The Knysna bike races take place this weekend. If you’re heading up there, please drive safely and keep a lookout for cyclists and pedestrians on the road. Visit our Safe Cycling stand at the Expo and get yourself one of our highly visible cycling jerseys, some arm warmers of pick up a sticker or button pin.

Stay safe and please share the road.