Western Cape MEC for economic development Alan Winde addresses dignitaries, stakeholders and cycling enthusiasts during the official launch of the 600km Cross Cape cycle route. Photo: Fran Kirsten
KNYSNA NEWS - Several dignitaries and stakeholders gathered at the Garden Route Trail Park in Barrington to celebrate the launch of the iconic Cross Cape cycle route on Friday, July 29.
The development of this new route is being driven by the Western Cape government, Wesgro, local municipalities and private sector stakeholders in the region, with the chief executive of Knysna's own tourism entity Knysna & Partners, Greg Vogt, being instrumental in the development thereof.
Western Cape minister of economic development Alan Winde, who is the driving force behind this 600km route – previously known as the Plettenberg Bay to Cape Town (CX 2 CA) cycle route – cut the ribbon at the start of the first completed 5km set in the Garden Route. The first phase of the entire route – a 160km track between George and Plettenberg Bay – is set to be completed by March next year.
Both Winde and Eden district municipality (Eden DM) Mayor Wessie van der Westhuizen spoke about the potential tourism and economic growth this route holds for the area, with the latter saying it will create around 100 000 jobs. "There are terrible problems resulting from unemployment among the youth in this area, and the jobs that this trail will generate are of utmost importance," Van der Westhuizen said.
Winde discussed the possibility that locals may later be trained as cycle trail builders.
"These trained builders will then be able to train others within the province. Once all the trails have been completed, these qualified trail builders will be used to maintain all the cycle trails," he said.
The Cross Cape cycling route aims to link up all smaller trails, effectively creating a baseline from which communities would benefit. "The community of Keurhoek will start understanding that cycling is making a difference in their lives. They used to be a community very involved in forestry. Hopefully through this space they will find opportunity to ride on the back of this platform that we will invest in and market to the world.
Entrepreneurs will start to develop, just like an an entrepreneur has taken this trail park and turned it into a destination," Winde said.
He added that the businesses need not necessarily be a trail park, and sited examples such as tented camps, B&Bs, coffee shops and bicycle service stations where cyclists would have their bikes serviced, seeing as the Cross Cape route is off the beaten track. "Suddenly Keurhoek will be able to market packet meals and accommodation because there is a market that wasn't there before."
Winde encouraged smaller towns to create dedicated cycle lanes to become more bicycle friendly. "When you drive into Knysna, just before you get to the Welbedacht Lane turnoff, it looks as if a cyclist has gone and painted a bicycle in the yellow lane," he said, smiling, and added that more road signs warning to "keep wide of the rider" need to be erected, to ensure the safety of cyclists. He acknowledged that this awareness would extend to cyclists being aware of motorists on the road as well.
Citing the GIS Map of the Cycling Economy, Winde said that cycling is currently changing and affecting the economy. "This trail is going to become a bucket-list thing. This is a trail that people will want to do, either the whole thing or parts of it," he said.
A great deal of the cycle route as it stands today exists already. The main cycle route between Cape Town and the Southern Cape has, what Winde refers to as, spaghetti (existing cycling trails). "Rob [Dormehl] has several trails right here up in the mountains, which makes this a destination where people travel to and enjoy, and it is destinations like these that will turn this route into an economic success."
He spoke of the partnership of the Western Cape government and private landowners that would make this route a success. "There has to be a partnership; there are still many things that we have to work on, like a ticketing system that will ensure that cyclists do not damage property they cycle through," said the MEC.
In closing, he thanked all the stakeholders for working closely alongside the government in building this cycle route. "We cannot allow this to take years. Once we have the recipe here [Garden Route], we must pass this recipe on."
He reminded those present that the route is not about starting in Plettenberg Bay and slowly working along till the route reaches Cape Town.
"There are already places that work has been done, such as around Elgin, George and Swellendam. We need to join the dots and I would like the learning to be taken to a different level to be sped up.
This new venture is not about a strict business model, it is about a new business model. Through this space we won't only have one-day events, but 365 days a year of activities, happening up and down the route.
"This is an exciting part of the journey, one micro project within a big project, which is called our economy in the Western Cape, hope and jobs. Something that creates opportunity to so many people. So many people are going to find ways of inventing a living and of changing their lives through this project," he said.
"Our aim is to position the Western Cape as the cycling capital of Africa. By the end of March next year, our goal is to have completed the track between George and Plettenberg Bay. As part of this process, the signage, which complies with international standards, will be erected.
We’ll also complete an audit of accommodation, existing cycle tracks and bike shops. Part of our strategy will include launching the route through an international event,” concluded Winde just before setting off on the new 5km route that includes a single and jeep track.
With a snip of the scissors, the Cross Cape cycle route (previously known as the Plettenberg Bay to Cape Town) was officially launched on Friday, July 29. Photo: Fran Kirsten
A select few cyclists ride the first 5km stretch of the Cross Cape cycle route during its official launch at the Garden Route Trail Park on Friday, July 29. Photo: Ypie Kingma