Let’s Make Burry Stander’s Death Matter
May It Improve Our Country’s Roads Infrastructure
By Vusi Kweyama
Excluding South Africa, tragic deaths of famous or infamous people in other countries usually evoke responses from their populace. Many such tragedies serve to correct and improve faulty or risky systems or operations, thereby preventing subsequent catastrophes.
America’s recent school shooting murders immediately aroused a strenuous review of that country’s gun ownership laws. While killing young students, their teachers, or anyone is intolerable, I anticipate seeing their deaths beneficially stimulating the successful prevention of future tragedies.
Accidents between vehicles and elite riders are an international problem. For those of us struggling with the recent tragic death of South African two-time-Olympian cyclist Burry Stander, we should allow this tragedy to prompt us to call for the expansion of our sometimes narrow and unsafe national roads. Some may argue that such infrastructure improvements would undoubtedly raise the taxes we pay. Michael Sandel, one of today’s prominent political philosophers, argues that taxation that functions for the benefit of the whole nation is morally permissible.1 As I also see it, taxation for the common good and creation of public institutions that strengthen our social solidarity on the national level should be pursued at all cost.
Obviously, to dowse all suspicion of political corruption, our government leaders should have the wisdom to establish an unbiased, nonpartisan bicycle advisory committee that would be qualified and empowered to oversee such an infrastructure improvements project. Allocating tax revenue resources to infrastructure improvements is a worthwhile, long-term investment that is sure to provide, among many broad-based economic benefits to our communities, much needed safety built into our roads.
I’ve done my share of international traveling over the years; my current stay in the Netherlands has enlightened me about the value and benefit of safe lanes on roads. In many other developed countries, I continue to see roads — even the smallest — with three lanes in each direction: one car lane, one bicycling lane, and one pedestrian lane. Here in the Netherlands are at least 35,000 kilometers of bike lanes.
The majority of people in countries I’ve visited use bicycles instead of motor vehicles, not because they can’t afford cars, but because bicycling saves money and time. Add to those valuable savings the fact that it’s much healthier to ride a bicycle — it’s even become cool to commute by bike.
No country in the world needs a bicycle-friendly infrastructure more than South Africa. While we South Africans have the largest economy in Africa, we suffer from having unforgivable disparities between our country’s haves and have-nots. Add to that the alarming level of the HIV/AIDS infection that causes innumerable deaths in our nation. HIV/AIDS fatalities can be significantly minimized in South Africa when its people lead healthy lifestyles, which cycling promises to offer.
Let’s face it: South Africa is not a bike-friendly country; neither are its pedestrian paths safe to use. But please don’t blame such failures on
apartheid or incumbent government leaders; instead, let’s get started by insisting that leaders begin today to make infrastructure improvements that include building safe roads with safe bicycle and pedestrian lanes.
Creating roads with three safe multipurpose lanes will bring to our country numerous benefits:
· Less pedestrian and cyclist deaths
· Minimisation of HIV/AIDS casualties once people adopt healthy lifestyles that include cycling and walking
· Decreased incentives for thieves to steal cars to look cool
· Healthy bodies that drive economic growth and sustain the capitalist machinery, on which we’ve grown to depend.
· Increase lifespans while mitigating the challenge of unaffordable healthcare
I put the onus on our government to take an innovative approach and long-term commitment to creating and maintaining an infrastructure and policy that strives to build driver-safe, cyclist-safe, and pedestrian-safe roads. I look forward to the day that our government makes its roads safe to travel while creating in our country a new and healthy “cool” bicycling culture. Who knows? Perhaps after improving its infrastructure, our government will initiate the granting of bicycle subsidies. I long for such a “win-win” situation.
If you think that making South Africa a bicycle-safe and -friendly country is a great idea, forward my article to the president and minister at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, and NobevuC@dot.gov.za. Alternatively, write your own op-ed and publish it for all to read; doing that will likely prompt News24’s editor to present it on the front page to whet appetites that promote this gainful approach to safe and healthy transportation.
From the office of the “Remaking of Nation Project” at theRemaking@gmail.com.
1. Sandel, Michael. Justice: What is the Right Thing to Do? London: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009.