ccs-41808-0-84983400-1383555566.jpegAlan Winde is an avid cyclist himself and commutes to work by bicycle. He used to own a bike shop before taking up politics and now heads up the department of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism for the Western Cape.
The Western Cape is, as all Capetonian riders will tell you, the home of cycling in South Africa. We’ve got the biggest events in the Cycle Tour and the Epic, we’ve got the busiest trails in Tokai and we’ve got the landscape which already attracts the masses. But while bicycle based, or bicycle inspired visitors are on the up organically everyone involved with cycling would like to see that growth accelerate. And the advantages aren’t purely economic; more bike based tourists will be good for a host of reasons.

But here’s why it’ll be good for the average rider. To encourage people to come to the Western Cape, the bike facilities need to be improved. If you’ve cycled or driven in Stellenbosch or the Mother City recently you’ll have noticed that the cycle lanes have been painted green. These, along with the creation of more dedicated cycle lanes are the first steps toward making cycling safer on our roads. Safer cycling, should encourage more people to take it up as both a sport and as a commuting option, which in turn should cause motorists to reconsider their attitude to cyclists.

Going hand in hand with encouraging more people to take up cycling is the need to retrofit existing infrastructure to be more bicycle friendly. That isn’t limited to safe places to cycle, it includes making public transport bicycle friendly too. So you’d be able to catch the train or My Citi bus with your bike, and not just during Moonlight Mass. And providing safe places to park your bike when you get to your destination, Cape Town residents can expect to see weird and wonderful bike racks popping up around the city bowl as the city becomes more bike friendly and fulfils its World Design Capital 2014 title.

From a purely MTB angle to attract tourists to ride our trails will mean that the trails will need to be maintained a heck of a lot better. But then if the access is controlled (ie. rent a bike and buy a day pass in one go) there will be more cash available to pay for trail maintenance and building. But MTB freeriding will in all likelihood be the slowest form of bike based tourism to pick-up. The draw cards of big events like the Cape Epic and Wines to Whales will surely mean that MTB specific travellers to South Africa will, initially at least, be attracted by our mass participation race scene rather. But riding great trails in a race might well encourage foreigners to return for non-racing riding.

Another area where you can expect to see rapid tourism growth is in the bike tour market. South Africa isn’t exactly conducive to European style holidaying on bicycles – the distances and roads are just too prohibitive to the average Joe – but expect to see supported bike tours becoming more popular. And our personal favourite: MTB based wine tours, where you meander along the farm roads from wine cellar to wine cellar enjoying the Western Cape’s iconic scenery along the way, are an interesting attraction too.

Bicycle inspired tourism is on the up and if it’s well facilitated by local government (which it sounds like it will be if Alan Winde continues to head it up post the 2014 general elections) and well supported by the local industry it can only be a success for local cyclists too. Because we can all benefit from world class facilities, a more bike friendly population and Dollars, Euros, Pounds and Rands coming into the local economy.

* Alan Winde was keen to point out, and Full Sus agrees fully, that one of the keys to changing motorist’s attitudes is by cyclists staying within the law. Cycling two abreast on narrow roads, jumping red traffic lights and riding in the road when there is a bike path available, will only serve to aggravate motorists who already are not keen on sharing the road with cyclists.