New routes for mountain bikers

Meurant Botha, chairperson of the Table Mountain Mountain Bike Forum, at the announcement last week that new routes in SANParks would be available to mountain bikers from December 1.

Mountain bikers will feel a little more welcome on the mountain from next month when they will be allowed on more routes.

SANParks, the Table Mountain Mountain Bike (TMMTB) Forum and other role players announced last week where the additional routes are but the exact trails will only be announced on Thursday December 1, the day on which bikers will be able to use them.

A revised Mountain Biking Environmental Management Programme (EMP) will also be released to the public on that day.

This document, which went out for public comment in April last year, includes a an updated code of conduct for the mountain bikers.

The process, which began in 2008, has however, not always been a smooth ride.

Meurant Botha, chairperson of the TMMTB Forum, said it’s been problematic over the years to update the EMP and mountain bikers didn’t really feel that they were welcome. “It was a new sport and back then it wasn’t as prolific as it is now. A lot of time, energy and money has gone into the trails over the year. We all feel that the mountain and parks is a part of our lives and it is an honour and a privilege for us to be able to assist in the process.”

Mr Botha said the forum came together after they realised bikers needed to work as one group to manage their interests on the mountain.

“We’ve had a few ups and downs but the last year has been a very productive time in the development of the document. We are happy to be signing an important document and an historic event in terms of mountain biking.”

The forum said the most important part of the document was the new code of conduct and rules for behaviour while cycling in a heritage site. The document looks at etiquette and compliance for cyclists. Some of the rules include the requirement of a permit and the need to stick to designated routes. The EMP identifies existing routes that are now being made available to mountain bikers on a shared basis. The additional routes that have been identified are in a number of different locations including Signal Hill and Lions Head, tracks above Camps Bay and in Newlands via Kirstenbosch and the Cecilia plantation transit route to Constantia Nek. Additional trail routes will also be available at Deer Park below Tafelberg Road, Groote Schuur Estate and a Tokai to Silvermine linkage route.

Wana Bacela, area manager for the northern section of SANParks Western Cape, said the launch of the routes was a special occasion. He added that the public participation process had been far reaching and taken a year to complete. “This has been a very long journey and the consultation has gone from Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, and Tokai where it started. This document has travelled a lot. There will be people who will say they have never seen the document but we are prepared to engage with them.”

Newly appointed park manager, Lesley Ann Meyer, said SANParks has been reviewing the EMP along with other roleplayers for cycling use. “It was long overdue but working together with everybody we were able to produce a very robust and practical programme.”

She said the programme would allow them to guide and manage mountain cycling and road cycling within the park.

“The purpose of this revision was to look at the current status of routes. The new EMP will also include an updated code of conduct and a list of all available trails.”

She said the implementation of the new cycle routes was important for SANParks from a safety point of view. “The more people on the trails the more eyes and ears we have so communication can flow. I’m very pleased to be part of this occasion.”

Ms Meyer added that all the information will be available on SANParks website from December.

Phillip le Roux, curator at Kirstenbosch botanical gardens, added: “The concept of an off road track from Constantia Nek to Kloofnek is such a great idea and has been spoken about for many years. Linking Cecilia forest through Kirstenbosch was critical so we trust that the route, which is well above the garden and follows an existing road service, will be shared by all users.”

Mr Le Roux stressed that these were not new routes but routes that were now being made available to mountain bikers on a shared basis.

SANParks said the only thing left to do, before the opening of the new routes, was minor maintenance and signage on some of them.