16 Sep CEO’s report
I think we are heading into an exciting phase at PPA and I’d like to think that over the past year and a bit, our improved communication has helped you keep abreast of what we are busy with at the office.
I made the offer at last year’s AGM that my door was always open for any member to raise concerns and ask questions. That policy hasn’t changed and the number of phone calls and emails I receive from members, wanting to share information, ask questions, wrap us over the knuckles or compliment us, is encouraging. We monitor and engage with members and the public via our social media platforms and we are responding to our members timeously.
Information and Communication is key and I am confident that we are delivering on our promise in this regard.
MEMBERSHIP AND MEMBERSHIP BENEFITS
Our membership statistics show that we are ahead of the curve and have already reached 90% of last year’s total membership.
I am encouraged by the vote of support and the team is working hard to try and exceed the 2015/16 membership total.
The basket of membership benefits is growing steadily, with members making use of the deals on offer and seeing a quick return of their PPA membership investment.
The PPA Bloemfontein office has been involved in a number of safe cycling and utility cycling initiatives and it is great to see PPA gaining a foothold in the Free State cycling community. The office is also working closely with Free State Cycling, assisting with a number of administrative tasks.
In May this year we held the new Maluti Double90 team time trial in Clarens, Eastern Free State, which was very well received by the cyclists that entered. The second edition is planned for April 2017. The Maluti added another road cycling event to our calendar and we now have two road and one mountain bike event in the Free State.
We have over 2000 members in Gauteng alone and as part of the PPA strategy, I am looking at expanding our footprint outside the Western Cape. To this end, we are looking at organising a few more road events in Gauteng and Mpumalanga.
Back home, the events team have focussed on the road and we have tried to preserve as many road events as possible as well as expand the offering. No “PPA-own” mountain bike events were added to the calendar, and only one new ‘fully-supported” event, hosted by an external organiser, was added to the calendar.
The road works and congestion in the South Peninsula created havoc with the 2015-2016 calendar; to the extent that we have to move road events to the Northern Suburbs this year, in order not to lose them.
Over the past year, we had been in contact with the City of Cape Town traffic authorities, hoping to get event permission for the South. Increased traffic volumes, higher-density living and the proliferation of road construction projects have changed the road cycling environment throughout the Cape Peninsula. This is a reality and not an excuse to avoid putting on road events. On the contrary: I have asked the events team that they put on more road cycling events, with additional routes being added to existing PPA events like the One Tonner and Heels on Wheels. We held a couple of hill climbs, in order for members to improve their seeding. The first hill climb of the new season was held on The Glen last weekend and very well supported with nearly 300 riders braving the old ‘Giro’ route. If we cannot get permission to go onto the roads, we go elsewhere, so the “Killarney Sunday training” series was created. In addition, we negotiated for track time during the week on Tuesday mornings, with the regular Tuesday evening sessions resuming from October.
The League series comes back in October in the tried and trusted “age category” format and will be held over 6 events. Last year’s Leagues did not work and it made sense to go back to a format that works. For 2017, we will launch a mountain bike league as well.
The team are working on a new series of four Cyclosportives – road events with a difference. We are also meeting with local and provincial traffic authorities to look at organising new road cycling events that take in the scenic roads and passes from Gordons Bay to Wellington. Permissions were withdrawn a few years ago, but I am seeing international events able to gain access to some of these routes. If they can, why can’t PPA? We may not be able to take thousands on these roads, but I am quietly optimistic that we will get permission to take controlled groups on some awesome rides.
I don’t know how many non-PPA members noticed that their times were included in the results of our events? A concern for many in the past, this arrangement came into effect on 1 January 2016 and seems to have gone pretty much unnoticed. But all participants at PPA events (who ride with a timing chip), now receive a result.
A cycling bursary was suggested last year and I think we have come up with an exciting project that promotes youth cycling.
The “PPA Academy” will enable young riders who perform in our road league, to go overseas and race for a European club over the schools winter break. It is a very simple concept and can be plugged into any existing coaching set-up.
For selected promising riders not quite making the grade on points, we will offer a training program and mentorship package to get them ready for the next league season. Once again, anyone offering this type of service already can get in touch with PPA and assist us with his or her expertise. Our aim is to support the wider cycling community, as I believe we all have the best interests of the young cyclists at heart.
PPA has been in touch with a couple of the local bicycle distributors and negotiated good discounts for bicycles that may be accessed exclusively by registered cycling clubs. We understand the need for better equipment as you get more serious about racing and the deals we have negotiated will allow club riders to access high-end bicycles, by co-contributing to the cost.
We have consciously become more engaged in development and supporting the “utility” side of cycling which is cycling as a means of transport, rather than for sport or recreation. Cycling is one of the most affordable means of travel and there are many of our citizens who pay a large portion of their income on transport costs. Having access to a bicycle and being able to ride it safely not only saves money, but also opens up many opportunities.
Along with the benefits packages we are securing for our members, this forms part of a broader restructuring of our Project Funding initiative.
I would like PPA to be the one identifying worthy initiatives to support, rather than wait for applications to come into the office. To this end, in collaboration with the Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN), we will be launching our own bicycle distribution program in 2017. The first order of PPA/BEN branded bicycles has been placed and I believe that our project will complement existing distribution programs, such as Qhubeka. Indeed, BEN, PPA and Qhubeka have been talking about bicycle distribution and local bicycle assembly and possible production for some time and a large utility bicycle manufacturer, based in Europe, has expressed an interest in setting up a production facility in South Africa. These are indeed exciting times for utility cycling.
Over the past 12 months, PPA has been representing its members in various discussions around improved and safer cycling infrastructure.
The City of Cape Town called for a Cycling Strategy, which has been submitted, and PPA is part of the “Bicycle Task Team”, alongside a number of bicycle advocacy groups. PPA is playing an active role in this space and I feel that we are making a valuable contribution.
We have partnered with the likes of Bicycle Cape Town for a social ride, and have committed to pump track activations at Open Streets events.
The Dutch Consulate had been watching the cycling environment develop in South Africa for some time, but with South Africans being very sports-cycling orientated, they could initially not identify an opportunity to get involved. However, as the cities of Tshwane, Joburg and Cape Town started focussing on utility cycling and integrating Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) into their infrastructure planning, the Dutch felt the time was right to get involved. PPA, amongst others, was asked to provide insights into the current utility cycling space and how cycling could become more accepted as a mass mode of transport in the future. Based on input received from advocacy groups and engagement with the municipal and government officials, the Dutch government decided to fund and organise the Mobility Indaba, taking place in Cape Town in October. PPA is part of the initiative. It is hoped the conference will deliver tangible outcomes that will encourage people from all walks of life to consider a bicycle as a legitimate mode of transport and increase the % mode share of bicycles over the long term.
PPA was instrumental in opening a portion of the Constantia Greenbelts to cycling and we have committed funding to speed up the repair of sections of the Tokai trail network.
Our ‘Stay Wider of the Rider’ campaign remains a vital component in our efforts to make roads safer for cyclists .We recently added “Please Share the Road” to emphasise the need for all road users to respect each other and tolerate one another’s presence. Cyclists, next to pedestrians, remain the most vulnerable road users and we have embarked on an intensive campaign to make cyclists more visible on the road. Thanks to a generous allocation from the Road Accident Fund, PPA was able to amplify these efforts and hand out thousands of high-visibility vests, bike lights and helmets at various locations in Cape Town. In partnership with local cycling clubs, bike shops and Lions Clubs, PPA was able to distribute these items in the Eastern Cape, Free State and Gauteng.
Our highly visible cycling jerseys remain popular and are seen all over South Africa and they have also been spotted overseas.
If we are to encourage a people to consider using a bicycle to commute to work, school or for other trips, we need to ensure that the roads are safe and that adequate cycling infrastructure is in place. Infrastructure only makes sense, if it is used, so it really is a chicken and egg scenario.
COLLABORATION WITH BEN
We need to create access to bicycles in a sustainable manner. We need to encourage people to cycle and what better place than to start at school. In collaboration with BEN, we compiled a booklet that teaches children how to get ready to cycle. The booklet introduces children to a bicycle and provides them with a basic guide of how to be safe in the road environment, be in on a bike or on foot. A practical session allows the children to put what they have learnt, into practice. PPA and BEN aim to roll this program out at primary schools in the Peninsula and then move further afield. We hope to nurture and interest in cycling (be it for sport, recreation or utility) at a young age, when children are most impressionable.
A year is not enough time for some of our strategic objectives to be achieved.
Achieving behavioural change in motorists, or helping to turn Cape Town into a cycling city: This will take many, many years to achieve.
In the short to medium term, we are looking at putting more people on bicycles – be it as a sport, or as a utility cyclist .
This remains our core mandate.
I am also cognisant of the fact that PPA has a membership that wants “bang for its buck”, which is two things: more events and a guaranteed Cycle Tour entry.
You have told us as much, and we are listening.
I am counting on your support in the journey going forward – let’s realise the original intention of both the Cycle Tour and PPA and help make Cape Town a Cycling City for all our citizens and visitors.