Durban bicycle plan kicks into gear – but will it translate into reality?

eThekwini begins cycle lane construction – ahead of COP 17 and beyond… But we’ll be watching, as dreams, plans and strategies don’t always become reality… And look out for our story in MOBILITY magazine about Durban’s plans for COP 17 transport (will they turn out to be smoke and mirrors?).

“Think bike – for this is the future of eThekwini as the city begins massive construction of cycle lanes set to change the face of transport in the region.

In the coming weeks, eThekwini residents will have to put up with major construction and lane closures on the M4 northern freeway as the city begins to extend cycle routes in the Blue Lagoon and Umgeni Bird Park areas.

And soon cycle lanes will extend to other key city attractions such as the ICC and Wilson’s Wharf, and then from Umhlanga to KwaMashu and Umlazi.

Carlos Esteves, deputy head of road system management, said this was part of the city’s transport plan and a move towards non-motorised transport.

Electric bikes are another form of transport that the city is investing in to reduce vehicle traffic in the central business district.

“The contract for the widening of the M4 bridge for pedestrians/cycling has just been awarded.

“This will be linked to the Green Hub at Blue Lagoon and to the proposed extension of the beachfront walk/cycle promenade between Blue Lagoon and the Country Club beach,” said Esteves. The work would cause disruption to the M4 bridge as lane closures would be required to accommodate construction, he said.

A ramp along the edge of the M4 offramp to Riverside Road and then all the way to the Bird Park will also be created.

The city will then begin the first phase of cycle routes between the ICC and the beachfront, Wilson’s Wharf and the Botanic Gardens.

While Esteves acknowledged that there would be some challenges along the way, these lanes were part of the full network of cycling for the city. “This includes other systems in Umlazi, KwaMashu, Umhlanga, as well as linkages to rail stations etcetera which are in the planning stage.” It would be early next year before that was “bedded down”, he said

The city aims to have Metro officers patrolling the beachfront on electric bikes and other city staff will help “lead the way” in commuting, deliveries, and inter-CBD transport.

“We are trying to find ways of removing as much unnecessary vehicular traffic from the beachfront promenade as possible, as well as raising the profile of e-bikes (electric bikes) as an alternative mode of transport,” said Esteves.

He said there were also significant environmental and health benefits to promoting cycling in the city.

“One of the barriers to the use of bicycles is the summer heat, as well as the fact that the climb to the Berea, for example, is discouraging. To look to counter these we believe ebikes provide a viable alternative for the 1-to 10-km journey,” said Esteves.

While the cost-savings of this form of transport would “take time” to be realised, commuters might find themselves also using e-bikes in and around the city.

They would also be talking to businesses to see if there were ways to jointly encourage the use of nonmotorised transport in the CBDs, and make it popular, he said.”

The Independant on Saturday

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