By Guy Rogers, The Herald Live, December 30, 2017
We got talking to these mountain bikers, from left, Louis Gillmer, Ian van der Walt, Andrew Angles and Paul Freeth at Dodd’s Farm; Picture: Guy Rogers
A crowd-funding event organised by Fat Tracks has raised R21 000 for the new metro police mountain bike unit, which was launched at the start of the festive season.
Johan Gerryts, the outgoing chairman of the Fat Tracks Mountain Bike Club, said the impromptu crowd-funding initiative had been undertaken by enthusiastic “Fatties” after an approach from the unit.
“The metro police had already acquired funds to buy the bicycles for their 12-person mountain bike squad, but they still needed shoes and socks, bike accessories like hazard lights and a fund for servicing their bikes when necessary.
“We relayed the call to our members and we had a fantastic response. So the squad is properly fitted out and has sufficient backing going forward.”
The new mountain bike unit is initially concentrating on the beachfront but will in time patrol Port Elizabeth in general, including areas like Settlers Park where the Fatties are based.
Metro police chief Yolanda Faro said yesterday the unit would consist of 12 officers spread across different shifts with the possibility of increasing numbers in future.
A police officer on a bicycle was highly visible and mobile and at the same time had “human contact with the community”, she said.
“An officer can move quickly through a crowd on a bike, and can find short cuts and access where a patrol car would have diminished mobility.”
The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Police Mountain Bike Unit was sponsored by Garden Court King’s Beach, McDonalds, Sun 1, Dolphin’s Leap, Wayne Pheiffer and Action Cycles.
Equipment and gear came from Fat Tracks, Coffee Crew and Action Cycles.
Gerryts said the hope was that the presence of the unit would improve the security in the Baakens Valley, which was already benefiting from a growing throng of mountain bikers and other residents participating in law-abiding activities.
While security could be tackled via relatively cheap solutions with the participation of interested stakeholders, the main problem in the valley was actually sewage spills, he said.
“It’s going to take a massive capital outlay to improve the sewerage infrastructure.
“But it’s terrible at the moment and something must be done about it.”
Fat Tracks’ focus is on recreational mountain bike riding involving families and beginners, but it also caters for top-notch riders.