- Lifecycle Week
- Cape Town Cycle Tour
- MTB Challenge
Founded in 1976, the PPA is a Public Benefit Organisation committed to promoting cycling and the interests of cyclists. Recreational cycling (on- and off-road), development through cycling, safe cycling and advocacy are among the PPA’s priorities.
The Pedal Power Association is the largest recreational cycling organisation in South Africa. It has some 16 000 paid-up members; the largest component being in the Western Cape where the Association has its headquarters.
The Association came into being as a result of the running of the first Cycle Tour that was to develop into the now-world famous annual Cape Town Cycle Tour (previously called the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour).
The main purpose and object of the Association is to promote cycling and the interests of cyclists, with the following ancillary objectives:
An elected committee of 12 volunteers, generally meet once per month, provides strategic direction to the Association. The PPA Office is staffed by fourteen employees who administer the day-to-day running of the Association and its members and provide guidance to event organisers on the extensive PPA funride calendar. These events are split roughly half-half between mass participation road and Mountain Bike funrides, with a few recreational tours, social rides, safe cycling activation rides and some races for the more competitive cyclist.
While the events on the PPA calendar are overseen by PPA office staff, most of the events are organised by various service organisations and clubs as fundraisers for a charitable or cycling-related cause. Amongst others, the Association provides the organizers with guidance in the form of a reference manual and hands-on assistance before and at the event. The Association subsidises the cost of the event by, amongst others, paying for PPA members to be timed, provides all equipment needed to mark the route, and much more. The Association also owns and organises a number of events itself, including the PPA One Tonner, Tour de PPA, two women’s-specific events, the PPA’s Elgin Valley MTB funride, and some social rides.
To promote safety at the funrides, the Association not only provides a qualified Safety Officer to attend each event, but also seeds its members based on their riding ability (using previous event results) and governs the manner in which the funrides are started in order to ensure the safety of the competitors. Cyclists of comparative ability are thus put into seeded start groups which are kept to manageable numbers based on the road or route conditions of a specific event.
Committee and staff members are involved with sub-committees that deal with the various aspects of the work of the Association. These portfolios include Finance, Commuting, Safe Cycling, Women’s Cycling, Discipline, Cycling Development, Mountain biking and Funding.
The PPA expends considerable effort in the field of development of the sport in the poorer, previously disadvantaged areas and supports several clubs and cycling projects in this regard (read more under Project funding).
The Association’s income stems from membership fees and from a share in the profit of the Cape Town Cycle Tour. While income from membership fees are used to run the Association, the income received from the Cycle Tour is used to fund the various projects and cycling initiatives.
The Association’s headquarters are found in Kenilworth and is owned by the Association in Cape Town. Additionally, a satellite service is provided at each of the weekend events where staff is on hand to deal with membership and related queries. In 2015, the Association also opened a satellite office in Bloemfontein.
The Rotary Club of Claremont has been in existence since 1976, and involved, in some way, with the Cape Town Cycle Tour since day one. Who better to tell its story than Mr Hoopla himself, Paul de Groot:
In the early ‘80s, one of our Claremont Rotarians – Bruce Pickering-Dunn was also the Chairman of the then W.P.P.A. (Western Province Pedal Power Association). They had been trying to promote cycling to the public and had for a couple of years, with the approval of the authorities and the backing of the Cape Argus, held “club demo rides” through the City of Cape Town to further this aim. These successful “fun” efforts had then led to a funride cycle tour around the Cape Peninsula.
Bruce had been getting some help in these funride days from some of our Claremont Rotaractors. A fellow Rotarian – Dick Jones – and myself also then went along to assist one year. I would guess that there were probably about 500 cyclists the first time I saw the event. The next year Dick and I were at Bruce’s house one evening for a meeting only to find he and his wife working really hard and late to collate and dispatch some 800 or so envelopes to cyclists who had entered to ride the next “Argus”. Again we helped out on the day and the cyclists could have by then reached about a thousand riders. Bruce made the point that the W.P.P.A. folk really just wanted to ride their bikes on the day and not have to herd/marshal cyclists or look after traffic hotspots etc. Between the three of us we thought that, just maybe, the Claremont Rotary Club members would like to get involved. It could be fun, involve most of the club, be serving the community and was likely to generate about R1 000 to R2 000 income for the club. And so at a club meeting the idea was presented and to our surprise, accepted. The die was cast.
It quickly became Claremont’s main annual fund raising project. We started gingerly feeling our way on how to make things work easier, quicker, more efficiently etc. We learnt fast and started putting in various “bells and whistles” as we went along each year. The “Start” was jazzed up with more banners, music and individual group countdowns. More care was taken in choosing refreshment station operators. Communications and medical back-ups were increased year by year. A carnival for the finish area was born. Greater co-operation from the local authorities was sought with more and more road closures needed. More portable toilets had to be negotiated for and organized. Claremont Rotary had slowly been accumulating more and more assets such as kilometers of fencing, containers, marshalling equipment etc. The pre-registration requirement for the event became more complicated, bigger and took longer. The application processing and seeding of participating cyclists became increasingly more important for the participating cyclists – and overall safety – particularly as the numbers increased. To think that there was actually mild panic amongst us when the numbers first went over 5 000 – and then the 10 000 mark!
Rotarians managed and did a lot of the manual work needed for many years. All night sessions were common for some of us and very early mornings for the rest. Rotaractors spent the day, year after year, sitting on the “bridge” over the finish line recording the finish times and cyclist’s race numbers as they crossed the line. These were continuously fed to the computer folk who put them into order and recorded official finishing times for each cyclist. In the early years Dick Jones had printed the rider’s numbers at his home, taking weeks before each Tour – using some weird old rubber block printing machine.
The whole system and the overall satisfaction of the cyclists saw the Argus Cycle Tour grow into the cycling icon it has become – the Cape Town Cycle Tour.
As all this developed over the years it was very necessary to bring in other Rotary Clubs and other Service Organisations to assist along the way. Sections of the Event were given over to other Rotary Clubs to manage. Claremont Club concentrated on the start and finish logistics. Newlands Club came aboard to look after the actual course and route. Bellville Club took on the cycle park for the day. Signal Hill Club initially took on the finish carnival and hospitality section. Kromboom started the growth of the pre-registration and souvenir sections. Other Rotary Clubs took on specific road marshalling sections under Newlands Club. Inner Wheelers, Rotaract and Interact came on stream. Other Service Clubs (eg Round Table) were also introduced to assist. Much of this is still in place today.
Parallel with all these growth developments was the greater interest and involvement being shown by sponsors, sub-sponsors and potential sponsors. As revenue from these sources needed to, and started to increase, so did expenses, responsibilities and commitments to sponsors and their expectations.
The crunch came for Claremont Rotary in 1998. We took a long hard look at what was going on and had to make a fair decision. Either we had to consider opting out or change the modus operandi considerably. Along with the extraordinary growth of the Cycle Tour had come a price.
Members in our Club – and in some of the other clubs – were taking serious strain. (Claremont Club has lost some key members over the years – and I believe mainly through “burnout” and frustrations with this project.) The project had started to impact more and more on the day to day business and personal lives of members. After-hours meetings became longer and more frequent. Individuals were having to use private business time to attend more and more meetings between 8 and 5 to deal with authorities, sponsors, medics etc. After all, that was when those folk were at work. Co-ordination of these issues became a nightmare for the individual Rotarians involved (The ‘too many cooks’ syndrome)
Clearly something had to be done.
It should be understood that at that time the Cycle Tour was owned (as it was from day one) by the Pedal Power Association and only managed by Claremont Rotary. A percentage of the entry fees was being paid to PPA – which was increasing year by year – but Rotary was taking on all the financial risks, responsibilities etc.
Claremont Rotary then entered into considerable negotiations with the P.P.A., which finally resulted in the ownership and management being vested in a Trust (The Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust) with PPA and Claremont Rotary being 50/50 beneficiaries. The trustees of the Cape Town Trust comprise six Rotarians and six PPA members.
A few of the individuals – in both camps – have changed over the five or so years that the Trust has now been in existence. Because of all the afore mentioned growth factors, some serious changes came about.
The Claremont Rotary Club opened the events office. Appropriate staff were employed to run this office which was then contracted by the Cycle Tour Trust to organize and manage the day to day details pertaining to the Cycle Tour.