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.