“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.
This morning we went on a ride along with bicycle users from Diepsloot with a journalist from the Guardian Newspaper researching the development of cycling cultures in South Africa.
As you know from our previous posts, this community has one of the highest rates of everyday bicycle use in Johannesburg.
If you were to stand on the side of the road during rush hour along William Nicol Drive near Diepsloot, you would be amazed at the constant flow of people on bicycles. If anyone has any doubts about the role and actual practice of bicycles for transport in Johannesburg, we encourage them to undertake a visit.
Yet William Nicol Drive as many other roads in Johannesburg is designed primarily for car users (though this is beginning to change). However in the aggregate, it means that bicycle users, pedestrians, wheel chair users, joggers and others not travelling in motorised vehicles are forced to share the road with fast moving automobiles. This is a ready recipe for unnecessary injuries and fatalities.
In the past we have called for high quality protected bicycle lanes along this corridor. This is the ultimate goal for cycling safety. Already there has been a missed opportunity. A previous expansion of William Nicol despite our urging for separate protected bicycle lanes and pedestrian sidewalks only yielded mixed use sidewalks. As you see in the image below, with severe traffic congestion, cars can easily scale and drive onto the sidewalk compromising the safety of not only pedestrians but also bicycle users.
A new section of William Nicol is slated for further roadworks in the near future. It would be a terrible road safety outcome if that project did not cater for all road users. There is now excellent knowledge in the City of Johannesburg about how to design Johannesburg appropriate protected bicycle lanes as the images below reveal.
We will continue to press for a similar outcome along William Nicol. In the meantime, witness the short video below of our ride this morning.
JUCA warmly invites all to join a bicycle tour of Diepsloot, to raise awareness of cycling as a mode of transport and community development. The ride dubbed the Tour de Diepsloot will take place from 9am on Sunday the 8th of November 2015.
Diepsloot has one of the highest concentration of commuter cyclists in Johannesburg. Yet till recently the presence of this flow of commuter cyclists has remained ‘unseen’ on the roads and in non-motorised policy initiatives. In this regard, we are delighted that Gauteng MEC for Transport, Ismail Vadi, will be joining the ride as he did recently.
Diepsloot also has an emerging network of community assets such as parks, recycling centres and now an Arts Precinct. On the day of the ride, the Arts Precinct will be officially opening. Come view the wonderful works on display. Refreshments will also be available.
The tour will start at Diesploot Mall by William Nicol Drive at 9am. The route is an easy 6.6 kilometres with the slowest riders setting the pace. It will end back at the Mall.
If you are travelling from far with bicycle(s) in car, safe parking is available at the Diesploot Mall. We look forward to seeing you there.
On Monday morning, the 12th of October, Gauteng, MEC for Transport, Ismail Vadi joined a Bike-Train travelling from Diepsloot southwards.
The MEC had accepted an invitation extended by JUCA to support the hundreds of everyday cyclists who live in and around Diepsloot with William Nicol Drive as their main travel corridor.
Without a doubt across Johannesburg, there is no other corridor as William Nicol Drive that features as many people using bicycles as a main form of transport. However this road is very unfriendly to cyclists and pedestrians. As we witnessed, motorists behave as though people walking or cycling do not exist edging them off the road and pavements. Accidents are not uncommon.
The purpose of the bike-train was to increase the visibility of the many cyclists to motorists and motivate for increased policy attention. In this regard, JUCA and MEC agreed that following the ride;
- The office of the MEC will organise a count of pedestrians and cyclists using the William Nicol Drive corridor
- Review existing and proposed bicycle lane designs to ensure they offer full protection to cyclists and pedestrians
- Organise a social bike ride within Diesploot that will raise awareness about the role of the bicycle in everyday transport and community development