Cycling to work or for recreational purposes has steadily increased in South Africa’s major urban cities. While cycling to work every day might seem extreme, in Cape Town or Johannesburg there are many recreational cycling routes available.
Every effort has been made to make cycling as safe as possible, with dedicated cycling lanes visible to motorists and pedestrians. Cyclists should still be very aware of traffic around them.
The benefit of using a bicycle is that it keeps you fit and saves you money. You will also decrease your carbon emissions because you won’t be using your car.
Of all the South African cities, Cape Town is ahead of the curve. In 2011, Cape Town was named in a CNN feature as one of the Top 15 bike-friendly cities in the world.
Cape Town has comprehensive bike websites to assist its citizens, such as Bicycle Cape Town which has a bicycle friendly city guide and other cycling resources. Cape Town Bicycle Map, a site started to encourage more people to ride bicycles, offers a network of safer, connected routes, parking, cyclists' rights and responsibilities.
Cape Town’s beauty and landscape leaves many cyclists with a bounty of cycling options to take advantage of.
For any budding cyclist, Durban offers great weather all year round and in recent years the city has made the effort to change its citizens’ perceptions on bicycling.
Cycle networks are being designed around the city to encourage residents and tourists to use non-motorised means of transport – signs that the city is changing after hosting Cop 17 in 2011 where climate change talks took place.
The eThekwini municipality wants the cycle routes to go beyond the city and link to the suburbs from Umlazi in the south to Umhlanga in the north.
Johannesburg looks ready to heed the call to fight carbon emission pollution; the city, which is one of the most traffic congested cities in the world, is currently constructing major bicycling routes across the city and suburbs, with projects being planned in Soweto as well.
Johannesburg, with a large dense urban population, is the perfect setting for non-motorised transport, where vehicle commuters can spend hours in traffic. Cycling in a big city like Johannesburg is still a major challenge but the groundwork today will lead to more change in future. Johannesburg plans to build 50km of bicycle lanes, another step towards more sustainable modes of transport.
Here’s a link to help you cycle around town:
Try mapmyride.com an international website which has bike path maps and bicycling routes in South Africa. The site also offers cycling tools, events and advice.
Three of South Africa’s major cities, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, have laid the groundwork for non-motorised transport, but this progress is no quick fix. The hope is that as time goes by, more people will leave their cars behind and opt for the bicycle.
By Shaun Meyer