If you want to live in a city where it’s considered strange not to ride to work (on a bicycle not a Harley) then you’ll need to move to Europe, preferably somewhere like Copenhagen or Amsterdam.
However, other countries around the world are fast playing catch-up. Cities like Seville and Bordeaux are allowing the humble bicycle to transform their cities into more livable urban spaces.
Whilst it is true that smaller and more compact cities (like Amsterdam) lend themselves more easily to the model, this is not always the case. Cities like Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro (even if it’s half Tokyo’s size it’s still twice Amsterdam’s), for instance are in the top 20 cities on the Copenhagenize index.
But where does that leave Cape Town? We have a long way to go, it’s true, but we do have an inspired biking community, bikes are allowed on buses (which is just as well as the Tern Folding bike has made its way to our shores), the facilities and infrastructure are beginning to take shape, traffic is becoming more ‘bike aware’, and the city is apparently working with bike activist groups.
Getting Around The City
As of July 2013 the City of Cape Town is busy painting cycle lanes green. They initially trialed a section of cycle lane in Bree Street. The colourisation appears to ‘promote safety and awareness of other modes of transport such as vehicles and pedestrians’ (bonus!).
A lot of neighbourhoods now have designated bike lanes. To find these, take a look at capetownbicyclemap.co.za and download the map you want to use. Their map is also available at various book shops, bicycle shops and bicycle-friendly stores in town.
They have mapped the Foreshore, Mouille Point, Green Point, Sea Point, Clifton, routes through Gardens, Zonnebloem, Vredehoek, Woodstock, Obz, Mowbray, Rosebank, Rondebosch, Newlands, Kenilworth, Wynberg, Plumstead, Constantia – in fact there is little on the peninsula that has not been mapped. Routes extend out to Woodbridge Island via Paarden Eiland, through Pinelands, Elsies River, and Parow.
Or use bicyclecapetown.org where their city guide highlights bike suppliers and shops, organisations or bike coffee culture using Google maps.
How To Bike In The City
Never done the bike thing before? Here are a few pointers from a video created by Daniel Penner:
- plan your route, using a map is a good idea
- consult someone who’s ridden the route before, if you can
- check your bike, the brakes, the tyres and make sure they’re ok
- dress for the weather and wear a helmet
- beware of cars – you are little, remember
- have the eyes of a tiger and the heart of a lion
- use bike lanes wherever possible
- mind the door zone
- when riding with the traffic, claim the lane
- use your arms when turning
- respect pedestrians
- lock your bike up when stopping at shops (it doesn’t actually suggest this, but it applies in Cape Town)
- it’s easier than you think
Urban Cycling Apparel
If you’re cycling around town or commuting you’re not going to don the latest bike racing gear. In theory, you shouldn’t need more than comfortable clothing and a helmet. But in reality riding a bike is a little more arduous than that, as any cyclist will tell you.
Whilst there is a whole new genre of clothing emerging that produces jeans you can cycle in, and shoes that double for bikes and the pavement (Google ‘city riding clothing’ and you’ll see what I mean), the average person is coupling all purpose weather gear with fashion to come up with some creative variations. But look out for the cycling shoe, ¾ knicks, cycling jeans, bicycle boxers and the cycling shirt.
Hot Bike Shops In Cape Town
- Woodstock / Saltriver: Woodstock Cycleworks, Starling and Hero, Camissa Bicycles, The Deckle Edge, Bicycle Maintenance Company and Ubuntu Bikes.
- De Waterkant: Revolution Cycles, Cycle Lab and Soloped Cycles.
- Sea Point: The Handle Bar and Up-Cycles.
(a few) Bike Advocacy Groups In Cape Town
- Bicycle CPT is a community generated campaign to promote bicycle culture in Cape Town and advocate a healthy, safe, cycling-friendly city for all.
- Cape Town Bicycle Map was developed to encourage more people to ride a bike because: streets are safer and more vibrant, traffic congestion and pollution and travel costs are reduced; tourism and the ‘green conferencing trade improve.
- Pedal Power Association facilitates over 50 cycle events a year.
- BEN – Bicycling Empowerment Network South Africa addresses poverty and mobility by promoting the bicycle, importing used bikes from overseas and distributing them to low income areas.
So let’s bike Cape Town!