Cycling in the City is a special Transport Month 2013 feature interviewing cyclists about their experiences as a cyclist in different communities and cities.
Name: Dinika Govender
Profession/Job/Title: Student at UCT
Marketing & Comms co-ordinator at New Media Labs
Member-host & Resident baker @ Twenty Fifty
Location: Cape Town. South Africa
1. In which areas do you cycle and why?
I live in Gardens, study at UCT, work part-time in Woodstock, co-work in the east part of the city, and play in the CBD and surrounds. I often take as many new routes getting from A – B – C – D, finding smarter, safer or just more scenic routes dependent on what the traffic in Cape Town is doing at different times of the day. This way I also get to explore areas of the city I might never otherwise have an incentive to, and to stumble upon places and people I might never have come across if I only relied on public transport. If I’m not just getting myself lost, which happens a lot.
Currently Main/Victoria Road is my most efficient route in and out of the CBD; and have come to accept frequent confrontations with taxi’s and avoidance of Golden Arrow buses an inevitable part of this journey.
2. Which three things, can government do to help your cycling experience?
– Pavements should have on-ramps every 100m, and at every street corner, to give road-cyclists an emergency exit should they need to get out harm’s way. (Being pushed to the gutters of Main/ Victoria Road by speeding taxis is not the greatest experience.)
– Painted cycling icons/lanes on roads would do a lot to alert drivers the fact the road can and should be shared. This need not be as labour-intensive as the Bree Street cycle lanes, but should be widespread and visible enough to give cyclists the confidence to feel a sense of belonging on their cycling route, and to temper the intolerance of inconsiderate drivers.
– More bike parking/lock-up facilities (with a list of useful geo-targeted contacts for bike emergencies) would be a blessing. Perhaps it’s time street-lights and traffic-sign poles were up-cycled for multi-use.
Q3. What role can citzens play in promoting cycling and inspiring others to cycle?
The first and easiest thing citizens can do is talk about it.
To promote and inspire cycling as a mode of transport requires a marriage of humility and honesty in story-telling and experience-sharing from cyclists. “Humble” because commuters are not likely to be able to convince everyone to drop their car keys in the ocean anytime soon. “Honest” because the joys of commuting often overshadow the frustrating bits, resulting in very rosy stories of urban meanders that gloss over the sweaty, muscle-cramping, taxi-dodging parts of a typical city commute.
Secondly, the magic of riding a bike happens just by getting on a bike. So the most effective thing commuting citizens can possibly do is to actively share the experience. Events like Moonlight Mass have a done an incredible job demonstrating just how easy bicycle commuting can be.
4. Which 1 cool or innovative idea, with no budget constraints, would you like to see in Cape Town to support cycling and cyclists?
Free bike-riding and safe-commuting lessons for all. There is no universal cut-off age for humans to learn to ride bikes; and there is no shame in falling off a bike today, if it means cycling hands-free to work tomorrow and never paying for petrol again.
5. Why do you love cycling?
I do not drive, and do not really wish to, so my bicycle helps me get to wherever I need to be on a daily basis. Cycling is both humbling and liberating. It’s allowed me to connect with more people milling about their own lives in and around the city – even if its just through the exchange of Hello’s, How-are-you’s and occasional Get-out-of-my-way’s.
A lot of my friends recoil in wide-eyed fear when I tell them of my commutes between the Southern Suburbs and the CBD; and up until the day I actually got myself onto Main Road and started pedalling toward the CBD – I too thought I’d never make it beyond the protected cycle-paths of Liesbeeck Parkway.
I also thought I’d never be able to take my bicycle grocery-shopping, until I was forced by a friend to cycle home holding an ice-cream in one hand whilst navigating my way through pedestrian traffic with the other. My successful one-handed venture has since made grocery-shopping and other errands a bike-friendly part of my life.
This might read a little like a child’s account of learning to ride a bike for the first time; and in many ways it is exactly that. I’ve been socialised to believe that I’d move from my parents’ cars to my own car as I moved from childhood to adulthood, whilst associating transport with traffic, accidents, high blood pressure and waffling radio DJs.
It was only once I jumped on a bike and challenged myself to commute as much as possible, that I realised mobility can be fun and functional. The process of unlearning a dependency on motorised transport has been a series of adrenalin-fuelled experiences in acquiring my own NMT – Non-Motorised Toughness – that is the blend of caution, confidence and curiosity that make commuting one of the things I most look forward to each new day.