In an effort to promote a car-free society and to observe motorist behaviour towards cyclists, Daylin Mitchell, provincial Minister of Transport and Public Works, took to the streets around the City Bowl on a bicycle on Tuesday 3 August.
Mitchell was joined by Mikhail Manuel, PR councillor for the City, Kirsten Wilkins, managing director at Open Streets and Ricardo MacKenzie from provincial legislature to promote cycling as an alternate transport mode.
Manuel says reducing the number of cars on the roads is necessary as the transport sector is the second biggest contributor to carbon emissions in the City of Cape Town.
Mitchell says the aim is to get people to make use of bicycles instead of commuting with their cars. He however admits that the infrastructure must be put in place to achieve this goal.
“Not all roads have been developed or designed for bicycles and that is something we will have to look at if we want to ensure that we get more people onto bicycles. So, there is room for improvement. So obviously from a government and an infrastructure perspective between the different spheres of government we will have to look at this because we need to make it easily accessible and user friendly.”
Mitchell says the shift to a car-free society will not happen overnight.
“It’s going to take a change in human behaviour to get people from a car onto a bike. But what was reassuring is that people in vehicles gave way to us as cyclists, so there was that level of understanding for the rules of the road.”
Manuel says: “It is important that we incentivise people to be able to use alternative means of transport to do their shopping, to go to work with a bicycle or use public transport.”
Manuel says there are many innovative policies that the City constantly talks about to encourage people to make the shift in order to reduce carbon emissions.
Wilkins says: “We wanted to get a really good feel of what its like to cycle so that when you talk about cycling infrastructure and policy around transport we remember how it feels so that we can make the best decisions for people rather than just sitting behind desks.”
According to Wilkins one of the biggest challenges is finding parking in the CBD. She says: “All the parking alongside bike lanes makes it tricky for people who are new to cycling.”
She explains that the Open Streets Bicycle Travel Diaries project, which encourages people to commute by bicycle, has grown to be the city’s largest commuter cycling study.
“It’s really grown now and for the next four months we are working with commuter cyclists to hear what their experiences are and coding that into a way that we can feed back into how policy is reviewed and changed,” said Wilkins.
“For the Western Cape government and the Department of Transport and Public Works, a care-free society has always been a priority, this is nothing new and the department has on numerous occasions gone out and donated bikes to numerous organisations to get people onto bicycles,” says Mitchell. “We will pull it all together to make sure that bicycles form part of the integrated transport system in particular in the CBD,” he concludes.