Black women get mobile

2014-07-18 00:00

BLACK women drivers are racing past white female motorists, after doubling their share of drivers’ licences in just 10 years.

Yesterday, the National Household Travel Survey painted a stunning picture of the growth of particularly South Africa’s black middle class — including the fact that whites were no longer the majority of female drivers for the first time.

Black African women have boomed their share of female drivers’ licence holders from 22% to almost 40% since 2003.

And the proportion of South African households that owned at least one car increased almost 50%, in the past decade, from 22,9% to 32,6%.

Comparing 2013 figures with 2003 data on how we travel, the report also exposed KwaZulu-Natal as South Africa’s taxi capital, with minibus taxi use having exploded over other provinces in the past 10 years. Meanwhile, our use of buses has plunged.

And where travellers in other provinces use “day trips” to visit family or attend funerals, the survey shows KwaZulu-Natalians are happy to travel vast distances to shop.

The report found that KZN drivers were “significantly more likely to travel for shopping purposes than for visiting friends and family or any other reasons”.

Yesterday, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters said the boom in private car and taxi use on the roads reflected both economic success and an increase in traffic congestion.

While a million households own a bicycle, the survey found that only 1,3% of people actually rode to their place of work.

DA transport spokesperson Manny de Freitas said: “For some reason, commuting by bicycle is still seen as silly. There is an effort under way in Cape Town, and there is also a very good rural outreach programme, but we don’t yet have the cycle lanes we need.”

More people use cars and bakkies than taxis in Gauteng and the Western Cape, but the picture in KZN was starkly different. Here, drivers’ licence rates remained at just 20% of adults, compared to 39% in Gauteng.

Instead, KwaZulu-Natal’s households recorded an astonishing increase in taxi use from 63% in 2003 to 78% last year — 10% above the national average.

The report found that 800 000 taxi trips are made in the province every day, and stated: “The increases in taxi use took place across all provinces with, in some instances [such as KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo] as much as a 15 percentage point increase”.

The researchers were also struck by the fact that bus use — which generally grew around the country — declined “significantly” in KZN.

De Freitas said part of the shift could be traced to the “very poor management” of the region’s bus companies.

“If you can’t produce an efficient bus or rail transport system, people will vote with their feet, and they’ve chosen the efficiency of taxis in KwaZulu-Natal, despite the safety problems,” said De Freitas.

“We need a proper public transport system — and the measure for that will be when wealthy people use it.”

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