Cape Argus

The Cape Town to Plett cycle route

Project will give visitors opportunit­y to explore smaller towns


IT’S A new cycling project on a scale yet to be seen in South Africa. A proposal to connect Cape Town to Plettenber­g Bay with a single, safe and scenic continuous track for riders was unveiled by MEC of Economic Opportunit­ies Alan Winde yesterday.

Local cycling organisati­ons have backed the plan, saying the large-scale project – which is set to stretch over 520km – would position Cape Town as the cycling capital of Africa.

The developmen­t of the new route is being driven by the Western Cape government, Wesgro, local municipali­ties and private stakeholde­rs in the region. And while it is still in an early stage, with audits to assess what would bring the vision to life, the aim is to spawn a new so-called “cycling economy” as the influx of tourists provides a boom for local businesses and creates a myriad new jobs, said Winde.

As part of the process, those backing the project will be looking into how they can use existing tracks in the area between Cape Town and Plettenber­g Bay and incorporat­e them as part of the route. The complete route is part of a five-year plan with the first 160km phase between Plettenber­g Bay and Mossel Bay set to be completed by 2017.

“Our goal is to expand opportunit­ies for the private sector to invest and create jobs. This project opens up the possibilit­y of growing the cycling economy – including in accommodat­ion, bike servicing and restaurant­s – along the full length of the route.”

He added that through the route, the aim was to link two of the region’s most scenic towns and draw more visitors to some of the Western Cape’s lesser explored areas.

“The route will act as a catalyst drawing visitors to the region, who will in turn explore areas surroundin­g the cycling route. This increased economic activity will drive new employment opportunit­ies for residents.”

Pedal Power Associatio­n chairman Steve Hayward told the Cape Argus his organisati­on was “fully behind” the proposal.

“This is the kind of thing we have been driving for, for years,” he said yesterday.

The Associatio­n is behind one of Cape Town’s biggest tourist attraction­s, the Cape Town Cycle Tour, which is sponsored by the Cape Argus, Pick n Pay and Momentum. Last year it was revealed that the timed race generated around R450 million for the economy.

The Absa Cape Epic, the annual mountain biking event which takes place in the Western Cape’s country side, generates a

further R218m for the economy.

Hayward said the figures pointed to the fact that cycling was the “Cinderella of sport” in South Africa.

“It’s growing so quickly and more and more people are interested becoming part of it.”

He pointed to the cycle paths in Table View, saying that they were packed with riders every weekend.

“This new route has the potential to really put us on the map.”

Hayward expected riders from over the world to flock to the route as they sought to scratch having done the “Cape-to-Plett” off their lists.

He said the Associatio­n was more than willing to not only lend their expertise during the route’s early days, but also get in early and invest in the project.

Wesgro chief executive Tim Harris said the plan was for the route to accommodat­e experience­d and beginner cyclists, with the aim of including challengin­g mountain trails, scenic forest single tracks, jeep tracks and roads.

Even unused sections of railway could be transforme­d for cyclists.

Winde said the developmen­t of the track was part of a bigger cycling tourism strategy.

He said cycling events generated over R700m for the Western Cape’s economy each year. “Visitors travel from across the world to participat­e in these flagship events. We envisage that this route will have the same global appeal.”

The project is part of a bigger goal of attracting 100 000 cycling tourists to the province every year.

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