Roads designed for cars coupled with poor or non-existent cycling infrastructure put many people off cycling. And who can blame them? Fear of injury, or even death, is real, especially on roads with heavy vehicles. The only full-proof solution here is the provision of protected cycle lanes by government. In the meantime, if you want to get on the road, try finding safer routes, if possible, or cycle with a group. This will help you build up confidence. Also, make sure you’re visible to vehicles by wearing lights and reflectors.
Cycling for sport is huge in Cape Town, with lycra-clad fitness fanatics a fixture on our roads. Our city also hosts the world’s largest timed cycle race, the Cape Town Cycle Tour. But very few of us cycle for utility reasons, and that’s largely because, for the most part, it’s not the Capetonian way. From a young age, we learn that cars are the best way forward. The solution here is for cycling parents to take their kids out with them.
Not owning a bicycle
Bicycles can be expensive but beyond the initial outlay, ownership is cheap. Still, it may be difficult to part ways with your cash, especially when there are other pressing needs. Luckily there is a new alternative in town. The Pedal Power Association and BEN Bikes in collaboration with Qhubeka now offer sturdy, robust single-speed bicycles with a useful carrier and side-stand. You can get a #bike4all bicycle for R2 000, including a helmet, lock and a light. Contact them if you are interested!
Everything is too far away
Cape Town is a sprawling city where people often have to live far from work, school or amenities. But even so, maybe in your community there are opportunities to cycle short distances; for example, to the shop. Doing so could also help you build fitness over time, which could give you the confidence to try greater distances.
The fear of theft
This is another very real fear in South Africa. The truth is, finding a safe spot to park your bike is not always easy. But when you do, you still need to lock it. Your best bet is a U-lock or a heavy-duty chain. Learning how to use these properly will also go a long way towards peace of mind.
The weather sucks
Yup, in Cape Town it seems like it’s either raining or windy. But there are amazing days. Quite a lot of them actually, and these days you need only check the weather app on your phone to determine the best time to cycle.
Cape Town may be mountainous but, for the most part, it’s actually rather flat. If you do live in a hilly area and you cycle a lot, you will build up strength over time. Until then, you may want to try a route that allows for “zig-zagging” uphill.
No showers at work
This is a tricky one. More and more firms are providing staff with showering facilities, but you may not be one of the lucky ones. If not, baby wipes and other toiletry items can work well, says Bicycle Cape Town.
Lack of understanding of the benefits
Our policy brief Stuck in my car has this to say about the benefits of cycling: “As with walking, cycling increases production of endorphins, which makes you feel better. It is the fastest mode for short trips and is the most energy-efficient mode of transport. Neither walking nor cycling produce harmful emissions, and they are free or quite affordable to most. People who cycle to work are more likely to be on time and are more productive during the day, compared to those using any motorised mode.”
It’s a steeper uphill for women
Research shows that women are significantly less likely to participate in cycling due to additional barriers. For one, cycling can inhibit women from meeting societal and professional norms concerning appearance. Additionally, women are more likely to reflect sensibly on the risks of road danger, further deterring them. Finally and perhaps most discouraging, women must face the unsettling incidents of street harassment and feelings of vulnerability to men. A few helpful ideas include the increase of cycling and showering facilities at workplaces, normalising the presence of female cyclists, and forming cycling communities to ensure safety and security. As gender equity continues to progress more generally, these issues will hopefully to be eased as well.
Few opportunities to learn to cycle
As we mentioned in an article earlier this week, it’s surprising how many adults in South Africa don’t know how to ride a bike. What we’ve come to realise is that cycling simply isn’t a skill that gets taught to kids across the board. If you’ve never learnt to cycle, we’re giving you an opportunity at Open Streets Main Road on 1 October.
Read more here, and then contact us right away so you can book your seat and enjoy the magic of the bicycle!
This content was made possible through the support of the WWF Nedbank Green Trust.