“I miss my bicycle so much.” These are some of the first words spoken by Nthabiseng Malaka before her follow-up interview begins.
Nthabiseng began her cycling journey when she became one of ten students from the University of the Witwatersrand to receive a bicycle from the property management company, Southpoint, in a competition aimed at advancing a cycling culture in Braamfontein. Her bicycle was provided on a long-term loan basis, and Southpoint has since taken it back.
Zuri, the specially named bicycle that Nthabiseng had grown attached to, had become her main means of transport. She ran errands, cycled to and from school, and frequented one of her favourite places, Newtown Junction. “Anywhere close by, I would cycle to instead of walking or taking a taxi because that saved me money,” she explains. Cycling was not only cost-effective, but her preferred choice of exercise.
A smile lights her face when she speaks of the various and exciting activities that cycling had introduced her to. She recalls the Johannesburg Critical Mass ride, a cycling event usually held on the last Friday of every month – “it exposed me to a cycling life in town, and other people I had never known; it was a new way of networking and socialising.” Nthabiseng misses this cycling culture and expresses it at every moment she can throughout the interview. “What will I do with my life now?” she often asks.
That is indeed the question. Nthabiseng describes her transition from cycling to walking as “back to being ordinary like other people.” She is currently saving for a new bicycle; one to permanently call her own. While networking, she had met some people who customise bicycles and has decided on a personalised one in pink. Nthabiseng knows that this is a long-term goal that she has set for herself as she is not looking to buy “just any bicycle” – she wants one as good as Zuri.