I am sailing along Sea Point – with both wheels on the ground – casually enjoying a wintry Sunday morning, weaving among joggers and other outdoor enthusiasts on the Promenade. Astride a custom-fitted electric bike, I can see the appeal of cycling, whether to commute for business or ride for pleasure.
With another hike in fuel prices looming ahead, a switch to lighter means of transport is in order.
Cape Town has recently been crowned the most congested city in South Africa, according to the TomTom traffic data. Commuters are presumed to spend up to 11 days per year sitting in traffic. The car emissions from this traffic poses both a health risk to people inhaling the chemical concoction and a risk to the environment, as CO2 is one of the driving forces behind climate change.
In March the global average CO2 has reached 400ppm, a new record, says an article in The Guardian. The carbon in the atmosphere has climbed 120ppm since the dawn of the industrial revolution and the mean global temperature has since increased by 0.8 ° Celsius, reports Earth Observatory.
Cape Town Re-imagined
“Imagine a city where commuters park their cars in lots on the outskirts of the CBD and use public transport or bikes to travel within the city,” Andrew Wheeldon, co-founder of Bicycle Cape Town and founder of BEN (Bicycle Empowerment Network), paints a picture of Cape Town without private cars. The vision includes bike share initiatives, bike-friendly restaurants and open streets.
“Bike schemes are about tracking people’s origin and destination and seeing what makes sense in our city,” Andrew continues. Many major cities world wide successfully incorporate cycling into their modes of transport, such as Amsterdam, Paris and Rio de Janeiro. It offers the people a new way to explore their city.
A general concern with cycling in Cape Town is the rainy winters, but Amsterdam has 200 rainy days a year and cycling remains a popular way to commute. It also does not come with the economic, environmental and health costs that accompany vehicles. Picking cycling over driving means a reduction of 96% of impact to the environment.
“Single occupancy private cars really need to become dinosaurs,” adds Andrew.
James Swift, director of eZee bike, shares this vision. He believes bicycles are the way forward in South Africa. “Cycling is the most efficient means of travelling known to man. It is four times more efficient than walking,” he says.
“It’s not just a sport – it’s a way of commuting”
Part of James’ vision includes the electric bicycle. “There is a beauty and an elegance in the technology.” Additionally, it is even more efficient than cycling because you can supplement peddling with power from the battery.
“Isn’t that cheating?” a curious passerby asked us on Sea Point Promenade.
“I just want it so I can keep up with my husband while mountain biking,” replied his wife.
Kobus De Wet, who has been building the electronic eZee bike, says the motor makes it easier to travel long distances and requires less energy. “The motor is attached to either the front or back wheel,” Kobus explained. “And the battery life depends on its usage, like a phone’s battery.”
Electric bicycles offers a cleaner, greener and more efficient means of getting from A to B. Not only do you leave a smaller carbon footprint, but it provides the cyclist with an opportunity to get fresh air and exercise and avoid the stress of rush hour.
Join the club – they have apps
There are many initiatives around Cape Town that support the cycling community. Moonlight Mass and Open Streets are monthly events that allow cyclists to connect with one another. Bicycle Cape Town is an exciting community that organises events, city cycles and has plenty of information on bike friendly routes in the Mother City. For an easy map to navigate the city, Cape Town Bicycle Map has some interesting routes that are easy to navigate and it even comes as a mobile app! For more information on smart cycling in Cape Town click here.
Cycle lanes are also being laid down in the city. There is already a green strip that runs up the length of Bree Street. Another bicycle lane is presently under construction on Albert Road, Woodstock, to connect people from Salt River to the City Bowl.
In terms of the economic, health and environmental benefits, a switch to cycling just makes sense.