The perceived low status of commuter cycling in South Africa is a key obstacle to shifting urban transport patters towards non-motorised transport, speakers at the Developing Cycle Cities Workshop agreed.

Santhosh Kodkula of ICLEISanthosh Kodkula of ICLEI, a global association of local governments and organisations committed to sustainability, speaks at the workshop.A better understanding of the value of non-motorised transport is needed if transport patterns in Gauteng province are to be shifted, says City of Joburg Mayoral Committee Member for Transport Christine Walters.

Walters was speaking at the Developing Cycle Cities Workshop, a Cycle Jozi Week event that took place at the Industrial Development Corporation in Sandton on Friday, 20 March.

The workshop examined local and international cases in which alternative modes of transport have been integrated into urban planning, and explored the possible development of a National Cycle Cities Framework, with the aim of laying the basis for a National Cycle Cities Conference planned for later this year.

The event, which formed part of Cycle Jozi Week, was organised by the City of Johannesburg, the national Department of Transport and Bicycle Cities, and was attended by international urban cycling specialists, local cycling activists and organisations and City officials.

Among other issues raised at the workshop was the need to roll out infrastructure that effectively guarantees the free passage and safety of cyclists and pedestrians.

Walters encouraged the participants to explore the challenges to scaling up cycling in South Africa’s cities. “If we start rolling out non-motorised transport, we need to start looking at the conflict points,” she said.

In South Africa, walking and cycling accounts for 9.1 percent of commuter trips in metropolitan areas, 25.6 percent in other urban areas and 52.6 percent in rural areas.

Johannesburg is working to shift the balance; 60 kilometres of dedicated cycling lanes have already been built in and around the city.

Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport Ismail Vadi emphasised the importance of building a stronger cycling culture in the province’s cities. He said there was need to create a critical mass that would make commuter cycling a normal part of everyday life.

“We need higher levels of co-ordination … to promote cycling or else these lanes will end up being used wrongly,” Vadi said, adding that a non-motorised transport (NMT) policy was on the cards.

Santhosh Kodkula of ICLEI, a global association of local governments and organisations committed to sustainability, said NMT was a key element of successfully encouraging clean urban transport.

“NMT is a highly cost-effective transportation strategy and brings about large health, economic and social co-benefits,” Kodkula said. The main barriers to implementing the strategy were the perceived low status of NMT, and the current focus on car-oriented planning.

Thembelihle Mogapi, Ekurhuleni’s senior operations senior manager for public transport, said the Metro was developing policies, plans and standards designs for NMT projects.

“Education and training is vital in order to promote these modes of transport,” Mogapi said. “It is a fact that most communities cannot cycle, and the stigma that cycling is for the poorer societies still exists.”

Simphiwe Ntuli, from the City of Joburg’s Transport Planning department, said the City would be profiling commuter cyclists in order to gauge current and future demand. “We need to understand who is cycling on the lanes and their reason,” Ntuli said.

Justin Hyatt of World Carfree Network spoke of how critical mass in Budapest had reshaped public perceptions of cycling. “The goals of Critical Mass Budapest are to raise awareness of the benefits of bicycling and other alternative means of transportation, to assert cyclists’ right to the road, and to celebrate cycling in general.”