Cycling has and always will be such an immense part of our society. While we don’t have the flat geographic terrain that so many other European countries have which fuels the use of cycles in their countries, the distinct differences between income earners in this country often leaves many commuters with the only affordable method of transport being their trusted old bicycle.
Cycling to and from work and school in South Africa still presents many a challenge in terms of safety and dedicated cycling road networks. Educating the public regarding safety on roads specifically in relation to cyclists is a massive focus of a number of government and non-profit organisations, not least of these is Cycling South Africa.
Commuting is one of the pillars of identifying talent in this sport. Other conduits to uncovering talent include school programmes allowing students the privilege of learning to ride a bicycle for the first time in their lives. Finally, to present the opportunity for learners and youth who have begun to master the skill of riding a bicycle to now test their skill and passion by starting to race even at the most elementary level.
The prospects are endless when it comes to taking cycling to the youth and people who have never even ridden a bike or who have a bike and desperately want to learn more.
South Africa’s past has not provided equal access to all citizens and Cycling South Africa are intent on fulfilling their obligation insofar as this sport is concerned, to reach previously un-tapped areas and to introduce cycling at all levels to those who so desperately want to grow.
“We have over 20 000 members in South Africa. They span across the whole country and our challenge to each and every member is: “What are you and your club doing to grow cycling in your greater community?””
Says President William Newman: “84% of youth under 18 are black young people and we need to delve into this immense talent pool to find our champions of tomorrow. How will we ever know what talent awaits us if we don’t go looking for it?”
Not detracting from the traditional structures which allow more urbanised and privileged youth the opportunity to join a club and grow and be mentored by seasoned cyclists, Newman shows deep concern that that same opportunity is not readily available to more rural and disadvantaged potential talent.
“If every one of our functioning cycling clubs across the country just adopted one area near to them and started offering time, second hand bicycles, and skills training we would begin to make the most immense difference in peoples’ lives as well as start to identify rich talent in our amazing sport.”
Newman goes on to say that every functioning club is littered with athletes who cycle and compete at differing levels within the sport. “Who could be better poised to offer mentorship, training and skills to emerging talent than our clubs themselves?” asks Newman.
He continues: “One of the primary reasons we are so urgently driving the use of our structures is that the funding model from Government has changed significantly over recent years with funding now available at all levels in our sport. Funding bodies such as Sport and Recreation South Africa, Lotto and Sports Councils, have themselves identified the need to fund at grass roots level. It is for this reason that functioning and qualifying clubs can now apply for funding directly and use these funds for administrative costs with the focus on growing the sport to reach those who have little or nothing!”
Newman says Cycling South Africa are only represented in about 25 of 52 geographic regions in South Africa (approx. 48% coverage). This, he said was unacceptable, and a goal has been set for clubs to drive representation to a baseline target of 60% of regions by 2018/19. “The only way to achieve this goal will be if we engage clubs offering them an opportunity to help drive these targets. Those clubs that are non-partisan to our cause will be assessed and placed on notice to comply and finally their membership reviewed.”
The federation needs committed clubs and members to facilitate transformation and Cycling SA will do whatever it can to assist and support clubs who are serious about helping transform the sport.
“We inherited a legacy and it is up to us right now to build and lay the blocks of change for future generations of cyclists of all colours and ages. We have mountains to climb, but the more we engage our entire cycling community to help us bring about change, the greater our achievement will be,” said President Newman. “We will help and guide clubs wanting assistance with how to apply for funding to drive these projects.”
In closing, the question we ask: “What are you and your club doing to grow and develop cycling on your doorstep and in your immediate community of 20-40 kilometres?”