Cities across the world are becoming bicycle friendly, with London’s mayor Boris Johnson riding to work. Now Joburg is joining the trend. Some 50 kilometres of cycling lanes across the city are being planned, and I can’t wait.
Peter Ahmad, assistant director of development planning and facilitation in the City, says “a dedicated network of high quality pedestrian and cycling routes across the city”, is to be established.
“Our goal is to have a dedicated cycling network that extends across the City connecting work, school and home destinations and which can also be used for recreational facilities,” explains Ahmad.
Plans are to link the present river trails to lanes that run from Orlando West in Soweto to Midrand. The routes will at times be on dedicated road lanes, at others on widened pavements.
“These are exciting times for cyclists in the city. Events like the Critical Mass rides through the CBD, the world-famous 94.7 Momentum Cycle Challenge and the burgeoning mountain biking scene are creating an unprecedented profile for all cyclists,” says Ahmad, an avid mountain biker.
The Critical Mass ride takes place every last Friday of the month, and numbers for these rides double every month, now at over 1 000 riders. The annual 94.7 challenge attracts over 25 000 cyclists. And, hundreds of mountain bikers zip along the Braamfontein spruit each week, joined by dog walkers, joggers, and pedestrians. A route along the Klip river is growing in popularity.
“Our vision is that in five years’ time, cycling will be another mode of mobility in Joburg – and residents of all ages and classes will opt for a cleaner, more affordable and healthy form of movement,” says transport member of the mayoral committee, Rehana Moosajee.
The first of these cycling routes begins with the Orlando pilot project, with a 5km route that starts at the Noordgesig Clinic, takes in the Orlando Stadium, Metrorail and Rea Vaya stations, and seven schools. Construction is expected to commence in January 2013, to be completed in July. Bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian bridges are planned in future for Alexandra, Wynberg, Sandton, Linbro Park, Rosebank, Zandspruit, Cosmo City, Northgate, Kaya Sands, Diepsloot, Fourways, Ivory Park and Midrand.
Plans involve safe cycle lanes, cycling infrastructure and routes that will facilitate access to the city. These routes will be integrated into the Rea Vaya bus system, Metrorail and the Gautrain, where cyclists will be able to store their bikes securely before boarding a bus or train.
The idea is to make Joburgers healthier, at the same time creating “recreation networks” in the city that will make the city more people-friendly and reduce its carbon footprint.
The first recreation network kicks off this month with a new campaign called Streets Alive, when streets will be closed on Sunday mornings for communities to get outdoors and enjoy walking, cycling, rollerblading, skate-boarding, aerobics and traditional games. The first two Sundays are 14 and 28 October, when the roads from Mandela House in Vilakazi Street in Orlando West to Dowling Street in Westbury will be closed to vehicles.
The City’s non-motorised framework (NMT) was adopted in February 2009 and will see a new emphasis on designing streets and pathways that are pedestrian- and bike-friendly.
This is part of a “Complete Street” approach, which recognises that streets are not only for vehicles. The cycle routes will include signage, cycle information and maintenance centres, the latter an effort to encourage entrepreneurial activity on or near the routes. At some points bridging points over busy roads will be needed, while at other places signage and striping of lanes will be necessary, or the more expensive option of dedicated lanes and road widening.
“The implementation of a Citywide network of routes will take time. Through the effective demonstration of the City’s pilots and building on current enthusiasm and energy relating to the spruit routes the foundations for a successful and enhanced bike-friendly city is being established,” says Ahmad.
Students on two wheels will in the coming year or so be able to cycle between campuses to attend lectures - a cycle route will be created between Wits and the various campuses of the University of Johannesburg.
Moosajee’s department has created the Joburg Urban Cycling Forum to “deepen relationships between the City and the cycling fraternity”.
Jason Geldenhuys, a member of the Swampdogs Mountain Bike Club, describes the plans as “a great step forward – this will get guys on to bikes”.
“I look forward to the day when I can ride and park at work and return home in a safe and secure manner on a daily basis – I don’t believe it will be too long before this ambition is realised,” enthuses Ahmad, one of the cyclists along the Braamfontein spruit.
In the distant future we might be a city, like Paris and Melbourne, where you can hire bikes to get around.