Cape Town aims to become bicycling super city

2017-01-18 13:35 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - Certain iconic destinations have a reputation for being bicycle-friendly and when visiting it is often the default mode of transport - the Netherlands and China spring to mind.

Cape Town is one of the world’s top cities when it comes to urban cycling paths, according to South African Tourism - over and above the cycle paths that's been installed in the CBD, there's a cycle route out to Milnerton along the MyCiti Cycle Route. This is an 8km ride, which ends at Woodbridge Island.

Sea Point too has become a hub for urban cycling and locals are taking full advantage of this fresh recreational activity.

Now a bold move by the City of Cape Town’s Transport and Urban Development Authority 9TDA) that will gradually transform Cape Town from a vehicle-centred city to a people-centred city wants to extend this trend in the mother city, beyond just recreational cycling, turning it into a super city when it comes to being cycling-friendly commuting.

SEE: Urban cycling on the rise: This is how bike lanes are changing the world

The city has published a draft Cycling Strategy which aims to increase the percentage of commuter trips made by bicycle from the current 1% to 8% by 2030. Currently cyclists have access to at least 450 km of cycle lanes across the city, some of which as mentioned above are separate from the road.

The City says it wants to strongly focus on  growth in commuter cycling - with the intent of impacting traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, as well improve mobility in the lower-income areas.

According to TDA’s planning department  assessment of cycling in Cape Town - mere 500 utility cyclists cycled to work in the morning peak period.

The research included surveys of cycling movements at 50 locations across the city, an assessment of the available cycle facilities, a review of incident data involving cyclists, and engagements with relevant stakeholders.

‘The available cycling data indicates that approximately 1% of all trips in Cape Town are made by bicycle,” says City’s Mayoral Committee Member: Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA), Councillor Brett Herron - with the uptake of utility cycling remaining stagnant for the past decade.

 “We evidently need a new approach, together with some key interventions from both the City and the private sector, to realise our goal to increase the percentage of commuter trips by bicycle to 8% within the next 13 years,” says Herron.

The draft strategy will be available for viewing on and copies will be made available at sub council offices and City libraries from Monday 23 January 2017.

SEE: - New hiking, cycling rules issued for Table Mountain National Park

The Cycling Strategy identifies five options to improve access to affordable bicycles, including employer programmes to purchase and maintain bicycles, a bike-share system or a lease scheme for local trips and student travel, donations, and bicycle distribution programmes.

Furthermore, the research indicates that there is great potential for increasing the uptake of utility cycling to work, schools, public services, shopping and social amenities across all income groups for trips of 15 km or less.

‘The biggest potential for growing utility cycling lies in bicycle trips to railway and bus stations. Thus, if provided with the necessary facilities for safe storage, we are confident that commuters will use bicycles to ride to the closest public transport station from where they can complete the rest of their commute either by bus or train,’ says Councillor Herron.

‘For cycling to become the norm, we need a network of well-designed cycle routes and appropriate cycling infrastructure. Facilities such as lockers, changing areas, and showers for those cycling long distances may be needed and in this regard private employers will play an important role in creating an enabling environment for those who want to cycle to work,’ says Herron.

The biggest challenges pertain to improved access to bicycles, ensuring that cycle routes are safe in terms of road safety and crime, and convincing more residents to accept and use cycling as a legitimate mode of transport.

Central to the debate is the need for motorists to accept cycling as a legitimate mode of transport.

“A mind-shift is needed where we all accept that cyclists are entitled to use the city’s roads and where there is mutual respect among road users. We also want to encourage cycling tourism so that visitors can explore our city on bicycles. The possibilities are infinite,” says Councillor Herron.   

Affordability is an issue

‘These surveys confirm that commuters either do or will cycle, but that the majority of residents cannot afford bicycles. Given the fact that low-income transport users in Cape Town spend up to 45% of their monthly household income on transport, while the international norm is between 5% and 10%, cycling is an affordable alternative – provided that we improve access to bicycles in these communities,’ says Councillor Herron.

 “Ironically, some of these challenges provide us with a golden opportunity for growing our local economy should we succeed in cultivating a cycling culture. For example, we want to explore the possibility of establishing a bicycle manufacturing plant in Cape Town that can build and provide low-cost bicycles for low-income households. Such an investment and a bike-share system will lead to job creation – but then we need our residents to take to the streets and to start a cycling revolution,’ says Councillor Herron.  

What to read next on Traveller24:

- New Cape to Plett Cycle route gets R4m boost

- First 5km of Cross Cape Cycling Route launched

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