If I should ever be in possession of national secrets, forcing me to cycle uphill repeatedly would be the simplest way to get me to spill the beans. Cycling is torture under the guise of exercise and I hate it like no other outdoor activity.
Unfortunately for lazy people like me, cycling is one of the most effective methods of conserving energy in daily living. By using a bicycle to get from A to B, no air pollution is produced. Instead of burning fossil fuels and suffering from road rage, cyclists burn fat in all the right places and skim through rush hour traffic.
Despite the health and environmental benefits of cycling, bikes are not the Cape Town transport of choice. Although everything is relatively central in the Mother City, cyclist safety in South Africa as a whole is simply not up to scratch. The death of Olympic cyclist Burry Stander earlier this year after a collision with a Durban taxi put the plight of bike-lovers on the public agenda.
With roads filled with inconsiderate drivers, cyclists defy death on a daily basis. To be a cyclist in South Africa is a feat of bravery deserving recognition, as Cape Town traffic is scary enough while safely encapsulated in a car.
In spite of all of this, a 2011 CNN report voted Cape Town as one of the top 15 bike-friendly destinations due to the city’s commitments to accommodate cyclists. This highlights the potential for a greener way of getting around, but the Mother City still has a long way to go before it meets the standards of cities like Amsterdam. Although the Dutch city is best known for its red light district and ‘special’ brownies, it is also a cyclist’s paradise where bike-riders have more road rights than motorists.
There are several programmes in the mix to make cycling a viable transport method in Cape Town, such as the #bikesonboard initiative put into action at the beginning of April. Cape Town cyclists are now permitted to take their bikes on MyCiti buses and Metrorail trains, with a few terms and conditions, of course.
The next step towards making Cape Town more cyclist-friendly is the implementation of a bike sharing system. According to an article that I read on Grist yesterday, 500 cities in 49 countries allow citizens to rent bicycles from a public fleet for short trips. The speciality bikes are manufactured using materials with no worth as scrap to deter thieves. They are also equipped with GPS tracking as a further precaution.
It all began in France in 1998 with a measly 200 bikes in the city of Rennes. By 2007, the bike-sharing system spread to Paris. In 2012, the Parisian bike-sharing system had increased the number of cyclists on the roads by 41% through its 224 000 annual members. Bike sharing systems are popping up in locations as diverse as Singapore and Mexico City, meaning that South Africa has quite a lot of catching up to do.
Cycling requires an admirable blend of stubbornness and stamina in which I am deficient. However, if the city became more bike-friendly, I’d definitely consider investing in a set of environmentally friendly wheels. I’m not too sure if South Africa has reached the social climate required for successful bike-sharing initiatives, but I look forward to seeing green transport find its place in the Cape’s future.