In an effort to promote a car-free society and to help a Woodstock-based organisation to better meet the needs of the people it serves, 20 bicycles were handed over by the provincial department of transport and public works.
On Wednesday 24 March, Bonginkosi Madikizela, Western Cape minster for transport and public works, handed over the bicycles to Open Streets, a non-profit organisation (NPO) that aims to increase the use of public and non-motorised transport in the province.
The handover was made possible by bicycle consortium Qhubeka Charity, the Pedal Power Association and Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN) Bikes. The initiative started last year and the goal was to distribute up to 400 bicycles to community-based organisations (CBOs) in the six Western and Southern Covid-19 hotspot areas in the province.
These include Atlantis, Dunoon, Langa, Grassy Park and surroundings, Masiphumelele and Retreat.
Kirsten Wilkins, managing director, Open Streets Cape Town, says: “It is important that people start realising the opportunities bicycles have to offer. In the case of this project, we’re going to be looking at tracking and understanding the communities that people are cycling in so that they can actually be better from an infrastructure point of view.”
Wilkins adds: “We’re going to make sure that this project works towards creating a safer, more socially cohesive cycling city. That is the mandate of Open Streets: to bring people together in really creative innovative ways to provide more choices of how it is that we move around the city.”
Ian Mills, regional manager for Qhubeka, says they have been distributing bicycles in communities across the country for the past 15 years. He says with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic last year it was decided to hand over bikes to community organisations. “We decided to support the community action networks, neighbourhood watches and some school kids with bicycles. And just to see how bicycles can provide that space of transport and access to people in these communities.”
He adds that the bicycles handed over to Open Streets are simple base bicycles. “They are built for robustness and longevity. They are single-speed bicycles and really low maintenance so that community members can look after them and allow them to get to where they need to be.”
Madikizela says these are communities where most of the population can barely afford to use taxis and adds that bicycles are a more efficient way than walking to deliver services. He says one of the many benefits of bikes is that it decreases carbon emission.
“Bicycles are accessible modes of transport, particularly for people who cannot afford cars,” he says.
“As we move forward as government, we really need to look very carefully at how we design and plan our communities to make sure that bicycle lanes and jogging lanes become part of our planning because we want to encourage people to live healthier.”
Madikizela says making use of alternative transport such as bicycles is even more important now in decreasing the spread of Covid-19.
“Even more so now than ever before we want to get people outside in the open air, using this mode of transport rather than being squashed inside a vehicle because we know that the virus strikes when people are in a closed environment.”