Ready, steady, go for Joburg's second Freedom Ride

The newly painted green Braamfontein lanes are part of the broader UJ to Wits route. When completed, the route will be approximately 15 km longThe newly painted green Braamfontein lanes are part of the broader UJ to Wits route. When completed, the route will be approximately 15 km long

Johannesburg cyclists are gearing up for the 20 July Freedom Ride to commemorate Nelson Mandela's legacy of a life lived in service. The Freedom Ride aims to bring the communities of Johannesburg and Soweto together, overturning apartheid divisions.

The two dedicated parking facilities are at Thuso House, 66 Stiemens Street and at the Metro Centre in Loveday StreetThe two dedicated parking facilities are at Thuso House, 66 Stiemens Street and at the Metro Centre in Loveday StreetThis year's Freedom Ride is expected to attract some 4000 cyclists to converge on the Nelson Mandela Bridge in the early hours on Sunday 20 July. The second instalment on an event that proved hugely popular last year, the Freedom Ride is a partnership between cycling organisations and activists and the City of Johannesburg. The ride aims to promote the use of the bicycle in all its forms, and is campaigning to make Johannesburg a bicycle-friendly city.

The day is a jampacked one; starting with an opening ceremony at 8am followed by the event kicking off at 8:30am, and a halfway mini-festival in Soweto's Vilakazi Street, before cyclists return, by road, on a Rea Vaya bus or via Metrorail, to Braamfontein.

Riders will also be inaugurating two cycle lanes the City of Joburg has constructed in Braamfontein and Orlando. De Korte and Jorissen streets in Braamfontein have been reconfigured and now include a dedicated green strip reserved for cyclists while in Orlando, the sidewalk has been reconstructed to include a cycle lane.

A number of dignitaries are doing the ride; these include the mayor of Johannesburg, Mpho Parks Tau; Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport Ismail Vadi; and Gauteng MEC for Health Qedani Mahlangu. Radio 702's Aki Anastasiou will be providing commentary on the race.

Celebrating our heritage

The Nelson Mandela Foundation is a key partner in the Freedom Ride; as such the ride also commemorates Nelson Mandela Day and the City of Johannesburg's rich heritage and history. The ride also aims to add to the city's landmarks, by building a Bicycle Empowerment Centre in Orlando, Soweto. Orlando High School has offered to house the centre, and staff training has already begun. Last year's ride raised R100 000 towards the bicycle centre; to donate to this year's collection visit www.benbikes.org.za. The centre aims to be operational by August.

Making Joburg a cycling city

In the build-up to the ride the City of Joburg has completed construction of 5km of cycle route in Orlando and commenced construction of a cycle route in Braamfontein. These include the aforementioned reconfigured De Korte and Jorissen streets and the dedicated green strip reserved for cyclists in Orlando, where the sidewalk has been reconstructed to include a cycle lane.

The Orlando cycle route aims to link schools with public amenities, and is similar to the Braamfontein lanes on the University of Johannesburg and Wits routes, which connect staff and students at the universities to their respective residences. It also caters to commuters between Hillbrow and Park Station and Park Station and Mellville. When completed the length of the route will be approximately 15km and entails dedicated off road and on-road lanes.

The Freedom Ride: logistics

Weather
Cyclists will be glad to know that the day is predicted to be a perfect Highveld day, with highs in the upper teens and zero percent chance of rain or snow.

Cyclists are advised to enter Braamfontein from:

  • The north on Jan Smuts;
  • The west along Jorissen;
  • The east along Wolmarans; and
  • The south on the M1 north, taking the Braamfontein off-ramp and then up Eendracht to Jorissen.

Cyclists should not come up to the Nelson Mandela or Queen Elizabeth bridges, as these will be closed to traffic. A couple of cafés will be open for coffee and a rider breakfast, including Post and Double Shot on the corner of Juta and De Beer streets.

Cyclists need to be in place on the Nelson Mandela Bridge by 8am to start at 8:30am. There will be road closures around the bridge from 7am. Cyclists should make their way towards the Nelson Mandela Bridge, where they will be directed onto the off-ramp to the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and around onto the other side of the Nelson Mandela Bridge.

To get to the start, participants should either come down Biccard Street or down De Korte, left into Bertha, left onto Queen Elizabeth Bridge, right into Carr Street, right onto the Nelson Mandela Bridge.

Parking

The City of Johannesburg will provide free parking at Thuso House at 66 Stiemens Street and at Metro Centre on Loveday Street. Street parking is relatively safe and there are a number of commercial parking lots in the city as well.

The route

The ride will start and end in Braamfontein and is approximately 35km. From the start in Jorissen Street the route ravels west along a planned bicycle lane which goes through Brixton. The route then follows the route of the Rea Vaya bus and one of Johannesburg's Corridors of Freedom. It passes Newclare Cemetery where Walter Sisulu, one of Mandela’s fellow freedom fighters, is buried. The route carries on straight into Soweto, and passes the historic Orlando Stadium, then along Vilakazi Street and the Tutu and Mandela houses and the Hector Pieterson Memorial, before returning up Klipspruit Valley Road. It then returns to the Joburg CBD via the N17, Nasrec Road, Mayfair and Fordsburg. The ride ends on the Nelson Mandela Bridge.

Safety on the ride

In case of emergency, all cyclists need to carry some form of identification. This should include an emergency contact number. This emergency number can be on a cellphone, stuck to clothing, or stuck on the bike. All bikers are also required to wear helmets.

Support facilities

The halfway mark is at Vilakazi Street. There will be refreshments on sale and riders can take a break to enjoy the Nelson Mandela public artThe halfway mark is at Vilakazi Street. There will be refreshments on sale and riders can take a break to enjoy the Nelson Mandela public artThere will be rolling road closures along the ride route, and roving bike mechanics to assist with breakdowns. These services are free, but cyclists will need to pay for any parts used, so should carry some cash.

There are water points approximately every 8km.

As the ride is not a race, there will be no cut-off times; but there will be no support or roads closures in operation after the following times in these areas:

  • Newclare: 9:30am
  • Vilakazi: 10:30am
  • Langlaagte: 12:30pm
  • Nelson Mandela Bridge: 1:30pm

Cyclists riding half the route can catch the train or bus back; marshals at the Hector Pieterson memorial will be able to direct these cyclists to the station. Cyclists can also board any Rea Vaya bus, with their cycles, along the route for the occasional commuter fee of R25. Cyclists can also take a Rea Vaya bus to the ride starting point, or catch a Metrorail car from Phefeni Station.

At the end of the ride

Cyclists will be directed towards De Korte and De Beer streets, which will be closed to traffic, where there will be food and goodies on sale. The Bannister Hotel, Hunter Cycling, Kitchener's, Post, Father Coffee and other shops will also be open.

Follow the #freedomridejozi hashtag on Twitter for regular updates on the ride.