A Johannesburg community has been rallying against the removal of bicycle jumps, but despite more than 4000 signatures on a petition to keep them, Round 1 has been lost. The jumps will be flattened. But it’s not all bad news.

The urban greenbelt recreational area called Robyn Park in the north of Johannesburg provides a safe outdoor space for thousands of residents in the surrounding suburbs of Jukskei Park and Douglasdale. Families flock to Robyn Park on weekends where kids and parents can enjoy safe bike-rides, dog-walks and more. It’s a rare phenomenon in a country wracked by high levels of violent crime and it’s as a result of the proactive community-driven Klein Jukskei Greenbelt Initiative.

There’s a purpose-built pump track that’s popular with all ages and all levels of rider. It’s a wonderful place for kids to have fun while developing a passion for riding bikes. But it’s built for the masses to be able to ride safely, so the gradients are fairly tame. The ‘senders’, the youngsters that have become skilled at jumps and for whom jumping is a lifestyle, need steeper take-offs and some challenging gaps to clear. They crave variety and increased challenges.

This led to the building, by the ‘senders’, mostly young teenage boys, of a new set of jumps at the far end of Robyn Park, on the Klein Jukskei River ‘flood plain’ where the soil is firm and holds its shape beautifully. The building of these jumps has been sporadic and organic and has taken place over a few years.

The ‘senders’ gather there on weekends with mountain bikes and BMX bikes for sessions that offer all the things parents want for their kids – outdoors, exercise, fun, building friendships, growing ambition, working hard (the jumps don’t build/maintain themselves) and rewarding achievement.

According to a report (front page!) in the Randburg Sun weekly newspaper of 19 June 2020, some residents complained to Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo that that “the ramps cause erosion next to the river and are an environmental concern”. A subsequent investigation by the city’s Environment and Infrastructure Service Department agreed with the unhappy residents.

A reasonable compromise has been reached to build new jumps where the popular pumptrack is (about 1.5km away) before the existing jumps are demolished. However according to the boys that built the existing jumps, the type of soil and the isolated location of the existing jumps has been the primary reason for their success.

SHRED will continue to follow this story as it develops.

Photos by Christopher O’Donovan