Cape Town’s Greenbelt Game-Changer
In our ‘The State of the Cycling Nation’ feature (December 2017 issue), we spoke about safe trails opening up around the country. The Kirstenbosch Corridor is one of them. – By Jonathan Ancer
A representative of the Table Mountain Bikers (TMB) group, which lobbied for the transit route – taking riders from Newlands Forest, through Kirstenbosch, to Constantia Nek – explains the history behind the development of this game-changing initiative:
The work started in 2013, while we were searching for a route for the Cape Epic Grand Finale
The work started in 2013, while we were searching for a route for the Cape Epic Grand Finale. Basically, SANParks asked why they should allow access to Cecilia and Newlands forests, when Kirstenbosch would not. TMB took on the challenge to convince Kirstenbosch to open a route through their property; and when that happened, SANParks had little choice but to open access too. When the transit route was finally agreed to, Kirstenbosch took it upon themselves to construct two bypass routes on their property.
The latest singletrack – the one that connects Newlands forest to Kirstenbosch – was added early in 2017. This was a Kirstenbosch/TMB joint venture. Kirstenbosch provided the labour, and TMB paid the R30 000 cost of materials needed.
The Constantia Greenbelt proposal came off the back of the Tokai fires in 2015. TMB realised there would be a lot of cyclists heading into the greenbelts (which, at the time, were illegal for cyclists to use), so we approached the local ward councillor with a proposal to open up a route. We teamed up with a keen mountain biker who works for the City of Cape Town (CCT); and while he made sure things were moving in the City, TMB worked with the Friends of the Greenbelts group to get the support of local residents. We wrote the proposal, it was put out for public participation, and after eight months, the local sub-council voted to open the trail for a one-year trial period. The Greenbelt trail is now permanent.
The Greenbelt trail was meant to act as a link, connecting Tokai to the other trails in the northern part of Table Mountain National Park; but it’s a beautiful track in its own right, and hugely popular among cyclists of all ages and abilities. It’s a perfect training ground for beginners, and a safe place to ride as a family.
Another smaller initiative was the building of singletracks on a CCT property in Higgovale. TMB signed an informal MOU with the City, and the land was cleaned up; and with the cyclists using the track, the local residents came back and started using the land again. A similar initiative happened at a park in Oranjezicht, with parents from a local school funding the building of singletrack.
Residents are encouraged to ‘take back their public spaces’; and in these two cases, residents chose to do this through cycling.
Since the opening of the shared trails, the trail network in the City has increased significantly. If you were to start your ride in Sea Point, and have the fitness to ride up Pat’s Track, you can get all the way to Noordhoek (weekends only, due to Tokai being closed during the week) and only cross three roads. If you jump across Ou Kaapse Weg and ride through Clovelly Golf Course, you can ride along the coast from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean and remain off-road pretty much most of the way.
There are enough trails on the slopes of Signal Hill, Lion’s Head and Table Mountain to keep riders busy for hours; and as long as you have a valid My Activity permit, you can access the trails from many different locations, seven days a week.