Robert Dempster
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The Witness, Pietermaritzburg and Bike (Eventing) City

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The Witness, Pietermaritzburg and Bike (Eventing) City

Written on the 24 May 2016, four days after the Tour Durban took place

It is not uncommon for articles appearing in the Witness regarding cycling to refer to Pietermaritzburg as the, "Bike City". What these articles really should be alluding to, is the "Bike Eventing City", as Pietermaritzburg has certainly enjoyed considerable success in this regard in recent years. What Pietermaritzburg is certainly not, is a "Bike Friendly City".

When I retired six years ago I took up cycling with the intention of riding some of the classic road races like the Amashova, The Tour Durban, the Cape Town Cycle Tour, and the Momentum 94.7. To train for these events I cycled through the city in the mid-mornings, and during this time I have not seen very many cyclists. Children no longer cycle to school, and hardly anyone commutes to and from work on a bicycle. Even on the single designated cycle path that I am aware of, I seldom see another bicycle. Pietermaritzburg is not a bike friendly city.

The reality is that unless you are up and about at 5 AM, then outside of the cycling events that the city hosts, there is almost nothing to suggest that Pietermaritzburg is a, “Bike City”. Returning to the Witness, it also comes up short, Three Pietermaritzburg residents won their age categories in the Tour Durban that took place last Sunday.

It is now Thursday, four days since the Tour Durban, and the Witness is yet to report on this event, let alone the achievements of the three Pietermaritzburg residents. Unfortunately, the Pietermaritzburg / Msunduzi Municipality also comes up short with respect to its support of road cycling on its web pages, as it has not seen fit to include the Amashova Durban Classic. The Amashova, which starts in Pietermaritzburg, and mostly follows the Comrades Marathon route, is the oldest classic road cycle race in South Africa. Surely as such it warrants being included either as a premier event on the Pietermaritzburg / Msunduzi Municipality 'Events' page, or if not there, certainly on its 'Bike Events' page.

So I don't think Pietermaritzburg deserves the title, 'Bike City'. To experience a 'Bike City' one needs to visit a city like Cologne, or even Perth, the capital of Western Australia. Back in the good old RSA I believe Cape Town is trying. If there are others, I would love to mention them here. Pietermaritzburg could be, it is undoubtedly South Africa's premier bike eventing city, and given its flat city bowl and its rich cultural and historical heritage, it could also easily be a great, 'Bike City' touring destination. A link to my own examples of such tours can be found amongst the links provided below.

Here is hoping I will catch you cruising through Pietermaritzburg some time soon, possibly even on a heritage tour of the city on a Sunday morning!

Some links

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