Cyclists make Greenbelt Friends see red

Cyclists enter the Silverhurst Trail from Spilhaus Avenue illegally.

Cycling is happening illegally in parts of the Constantia greenbelts and also causing erosion there, says a non-profit organisation that cares for these natural refuges.

The issue came up at the annual general meeting of the Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts, at Simon’s Groot Constantia, on Wednesday November 24.

Cyclists were causing erosion at Diep River greenbelt and using the Silverhurst Trail from Spilhaus Avenue illegally, the group’s members said at the meeting.

Since the easing of lockdown restrictions, which forbade exercise, the human footprint in the 12 greenbelt walks in the Constantia Valley has doubled if not trebled, according to Colin Walker, the group’s chairman.

Some of the Constantia valley greenbelts were opened to cyclists in February 2016 on a one-year trial basis (“Greenbelts cycle trails open,” Bulletin March 2016).

At the time, Liz Brunette, who was the Ward 62 councillor then, said opening some trails on the greenbelts to cyclists would help them commute from one part of town to the other, allow all levels of riders to enjoy the outdoors in a safe environment and improve security.

Those trails continue to be well used by cyclists, but some of them are venturing onto non-cycle routes illegally, such as the trail south of Spilhaus Avenue, according to the Friends.

And when the Bulletin visited the greenbelts on Tuesday, we found a cycling pump track had been built in a section of the forest below Rhodes Drive. The forest floor had been dug up to make ramps and berms.

There were about 10 to 15 mounds, some covered in carpeting, and a freshly dug one-metre long trench. This track has apparently been there for a number of years.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Mr Walker said that after the one-year trial the Pedal Power Association had asked if all trails could be opened to cyclists as other greenbelt visitors were now accustomed to sharing the trails with them.

However, Mr Walker said the Friends had rejected that proposal. “We had a gentleman’s handshake on this,” he said.

The Pedal Power Association had contributed financially to the upkeep of the trails but to his knowledge, had not been done so since its proposal had been turned down, he said.

According to Mr Walker, the greenbelts fall under the City’s authority, but the Friends help to maintain them.

“We use landscapers, pay them, therefore supplying jobs. They have 15 years’ experience and are trained to know what they are doing,” said Mr Walker.

Mr Walker suggested that Fay Howa, the City’s environmental manager with recreation and parks, set up a meeting with all parties to discuss the way forward.

New Ward 62 councillor Emile Langenhoven was not at the meeting and told the Bulletin he could not say much on the issue as he was unfamiliar with the history behind it.

Friends treasurer Robert Thorp reported that accumulated funds at the end of the year were less than half of what they had been for the same time last year: R108 123 compared to R213 699 for 2020. A “whopping” tax bill for R45 689 (it was nil the previous year) was to blame for a 70% increase in expenditure, from R148 334 to R233 445, he said.

“This was to get our house in order to enable us to become a public-benefit organisation. We will be tax-free going forward,” said Mr Thorp.

Committee member Jess de Jager encouraged people to use the recycling centre at the back of Constantia Village as it generated revenue for the greenbelts.

Neither the City’ media office nor the Pedal Power Association responded, by time of publication, to questions sent to them on Friday November 26.

Email jamesforsyth@mweb.co.za for more information about the Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts.

Dr Clive McDowell, head of the Constantia Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association’s green environment portfolio, with Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts treasurer Rob Thorp.
Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts chairman Chris Walker, James Forsyth, Alex Cloete-Hopkins and Jess de Jager.
Adrian Jessop with the previous Ward 62 councillor, Liz Brunette, who was one of the first people to join the Friends of Constantia Valley Greenbelts.
The greenbelt below Rhodes and Southern Cross drives in Constantia.
The pump track below Rhodes Drive.
Cycle humps, some covered with carpeting, below Rhodes Drive.
A cyclist zooms past on the greenbelt between Bellevue and Southern Cross drives.