One swallow does not a summer make

Today, at the launch of Cape Town’s new 16km segregated bike way, 300 or so cyclists pedalled from Milnerton into the central city. I wonder how many there will be tomorrow?

Today the City of Cape Town officially launched the 16km-segregated bikeway, parallel to the not-yet-operational West Coast bus rapid transit route from Cape Town toward the West Coast.

And so it was that I found myself, at 6am, joining 300 or so other cyclists congregated in Milnerton, ready to overtake the 100s of cars on their own commutes into town. Pity, though, that I had to drive there first, as bicycles are not permitted on Metrorail trains…

I am suitably impressed with the City’s courage in building a bikeway within a city of car-loving inhabitants, where cycling is regarded as a sport, a hindrance, or a means of travel for ‘losers only’, to quote a prominent South African city mayor. I’m not entirely a believer in segregation, though, and believe that bicycles should be given their full share of the roads – and was happily surprised to see a banner, proclaiming that ‘separate is not equal’, strung up on a fence alongside the route [and sorry that I didn’t stop to take a photograph before it was removed by those in disagreement…]

To be fair, this was a launch EVENT, and events do need to be a spectacle of sorts. But it is a pity that by my count there were a scant 10 or so cyclists other than myself who’d left their Lycra at home. And was sorry to see the Disaster Management vehicle and traffic police entourage that accompanied the riders, sending the message that commuter cycling is dangerous and by special-dispensation only…
Perhaps the authorities were simply intending to protect the Executive Mayor, should anything ill have befallen him, but I do long for the day that commuter cycling is regarded as an ordinary, safe, mainstream occupation.

These bikeways are a good start, though – it was good to find myself ‘shouted’ out of the way by two ‘real’ commuter cyclists who were running late for work. And to notice that even at our slow pace we out-rode the traffic☺

Visit http://www.capetownbicyclemap.co.za to get your print copy of our bicycle commuter information map – and please keep us posted with information we need to include next time around.

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Comments

  1. Morgan Commins says:

    Hi Gail,

    I think your work and promotion of this initiative is highly commendable: thank you. I have also been frustrated with no bicycles allowed on trains for the longest time – this would empower the majority of the city. However, with metrorail stopping many of their trains and the current service delivery shambles, we can only hope for the day that metrorail can efficiently transport people let alone their bicycles.

    I have issues with a separate bicycle lane, separate lanes need to be separately maintained by maintenance teams – are these in place? By segregating one must then provide space for all forms of users, including pedestrians. As clearly shown in your blog photo (https://rideyourcity.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/good-pic-of-lanes.jpg), there is nowhere for pedestrians. Thus, pedestrians will naturally walk on the bicycle lanes, totally defeating the purpose. Bicycles and pedestrians do not mix – cyclists are more akin to cars than pedestrians. Canada has gone through a similar process before, I’ll try to dig up some old resources in this regard.

    Keep up the great work. Thank you.

    • Hi Morgan
      Thank you! And yes, I agree re pedestrians and bicycles. Most of my ‘near-misses’ have been with pedestrians, not with cars. Cars at least drive fairly predictably, but pedestrians jump out of the way in all directions (and don’t hear my bicycle bell!).
      But I also think that bike lanes are problematic in that they send the subtle message that bicycles don’t belong on the roads but only on segregated lanes. This is dangerous, as it feeds into the already hostile discourse around the rights of cyclists to be on the road. Plus, it takes the focus OFF making roads safer through lowered speed limites, respect from drivers for cyclists, cycle-friendly legislation, etc. I prefer to ride in the traffic than on the side-walk bike lanes, that’s for sure!

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