Friday, March 04, 2011

Paarl's Fury over cyclists

THE business sector of Central Paarl is up in arms after a disruptive cycle race through the town on
Saturday. And there is more to come next week.

The seventh and last stage of the Cell C Cycle Tour of South Africa caused huge traffic jams due to
the closure of most routes in the area on Saturday at midday, thus scaring customers away from
the central business district.

This directly led to businesses losing much needed trade on what should have been their busiest
day of the month.

Gawie Cillié of Mica hardware store in Main Street said that he had lost 50% of his trade on

“It is unacceptable that the town is forced to a standstill because of a bunch of cyclists - especially
during peak business hours - and that on the last day of the month as well. They could have held the
race later on in the afternoon or on Sunday.

“My customers just could not get to me because of the traffic mayhem. I did not even break even on
my costs for the day, when I would normally have made a good profit.

“I have spoken to other business owners and if this happens again, we will blockade Main Street
with our vehicles in protest.”

Around the corner, at Paarl Market, business also moved at a snail’s pace between 11:00 and
15:00 on Saturday.

Owners Fernando en Neil de Freitas are not impressed.

“Our turn-over was definitely down and we probably had 300 less sales than we would usually have
had for the day.

“What do Paarl businesses actually get out of such a race and why does the municipality not consult
with us before giving permission for this?”

Koos van Dyk, owner of the Vineyard Spar, said that for a good three hours on Saturday, there
were very few visitors to his supermarket.

“My customers could not get here. There were no alternative routes. It was a nightmare. How can
the authorities allow this?”

And apart from business owners battling to keep their heads above water on Saturday, many
commuters spent more than an hour trapped in their vehicles waiting for roads to re-open, in intense heat. On more than one occasion vehicles even over-heated due to this.

A spokesperson for the municipality, Anthony Sauls, said that all concerned parties were informed
well in advance about road closures and possible disruptions.

“This is a national cycling race with a lot of overseas competitors participating and the country
receives a lot of exposure, because the race is also televised internationally.”

Event Director, Alec Lenferna, said that the originally the final stage of the Tour of South Africa was
due to be held in Stellenbosch.

“However, we were contacted by Paarl authorities who encouraged us to move the final stage to
this town.

“The fact that the race took place on the last Saturday of the month is unfortunate, but if one looks
at the bigger picture, surely the benefits outweigh the disruptions for one day. Stage 7 had five
hours of live television coverage – all focused on the racing through the streets of Paarl.”

* Paarlites will be subjected to further visits by cyclists this coming week, from Tuesday to Friday
(8-11 March), with the Tour de Boland.

The race will start every day at 08:30 at the De Oude Paarl Hotel in Main Street, ending at the
same point at 12:00. Streets will be affected by road closures from 08:00 onwards.

Cyclists will travel via Haarlem Street to Berg River Boulevard, crossing the Berg River to
Langenhoven Road towards the mountain passes. They will travel through Wellington on
Wednesday via Bain’s Kloof.

On the Friday a circular route will be cycled from the Strooidak Church southwards, travelling via
Jan Phillips Drive to the Language Monument and back via Courtrai, Roodeberg Village, Cecilia
Street and Berg River Boulevard, back to the church in Main Street via Haarlem Street

SHOOT: There's an unusual desperation these days to make a buck.  I do think, given this temperament, sports authorities would do well to observe and implement the least invasive solution.  Either an early start or a late one [in the afternoon].

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