Mass ride to take back Victoria Drive

WORKING TOGETHER: Cyclists, from left, Luvuyo Bangazi, Lukholo Badi and Charl Joubert lead the iMveli Cycling Academy Mass ride on Saturday in Walmer Township and Victoria Drive

Bay cyclists, security officials work together to create awareness to make route safer

A string of brazen attacks on cyclists along Victoria Drive, Walmer, has evoked fear among the cycling community and, in an attempt to reclaim their route, a mass ride was held at the weekend.

More than 50 Port Elizabeth cyclists, including children, took to the streets of Walmer Township on Saturday in an attempt to raise awareness by distributing flyers and pleading with residents there to stop the crimes against cyclists.

Over the past month, at least four cyclist were attacked while cycling on Victoria Drive, with the latest attack on 52-year-old Brian Spilkin on Friday morning.

Ride coordinator and Eastern Province Cycling president Lukholo Badi said the mass ride was the first of many until the attacks on local and international cyclists stopped.

“It is assumed that [the attacks] are by Walmer Township residents.

“We want to engage the community and ask them to understand cyclists are people too,” Badi said.

He worried every day for the cyclist in his cycling school – Imveli Cycling Academy – who also train along Victoria Drive.

Addressing residents at the Fountain Road taxi rank, Badi urged residents to stop the crimes.

“If these crimes don’t stop, it will affect the city hosting big events such as Ironman and the jobs that come with such events will also end.

“We are pleading with you to rather protect cyclists and not attack them,” Badi said.

The campaign would be intensified by going door to door and talking to people, he said.

Some residents joined the ride from Victoria Drive around Walmer Township and down Marine Drive towards Summerstrand.

Cyclist and Mandela Bay Development Agency spokesman Luvuyo Bangazi said the mass ride was an attempt to take back the route.

“This route is an institution in terms of cycling in Port Elizabeth for more than 40 years. Without fail, people have been riding here. Why would it stop now?

“We want to send a message to the area especially because we come from this background.

“We don’t want this route to be changed. For me and many cyclists riding here, it is a tradition and a signature of PE cycling,” he said.

The cyclist also handed out flyers at traffic lights and in businesses around the area.

Meanwhile, the metro police, SAPS and Atlas Security have increased visibility along the route, with at least three vehicles patrolling during peak cycling hours.

Safety and security political head John Best said the partnership between the metro police and Atlas was an informal one.

“We have met the SAPS and came up with an operational plan. Atlas has since come on board to assist in patrolling the area,” Best said.

Discussions on making the route safer continued, while two metro police vehicles patrol the area.

Atlas operations manager Monty Montgomery said all parties had been in discussions since last week to try find ways to make the route safer together. “We are trying to be visible as much as possible, even though it is not all the time.”

Montgomery said the robbery before the Ironman and the attacks had led the security company to join in and see how it could help.

“It’s a total team effort and we have been in discussions with each other, making final arrangements to be as visible as possible,” he said.

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