The JDA’s “Greenways” programme recognises that non-motorised transport infrastructure is closely related to urban regeneration and development.

An off-road facility that will encourage people to cycle and walk was opened to the public in Orlando, Soweto on Thursday, 23 October.

The five-kilometre route will connect residents in Orlando to destinations such as schools, clinics, Orlando Stadium, the Orlando Police station and magistrate’s court, as well as Rea Vaya and Metrorail stations.

Speaking at the unveiling, Joburg Executive Mayor Parks Tau said the City was supporting “safer and more attractive cycle routes which will help to encourage people of all ages to take up and enjoy the benefits of cycling in the capital.

“By using alternative means of transport, we ensure that there is less pollution and give our future a better chance,” Tau said, encouraging residents to get out of their cars and ride bikes instead – if not to work, then for exercise and pleasure.

“The new facilities are a celebration of progress with regards to creating consciousness among ourselves and how we treat our bodies,” said Tau.

Recognising that non-motorised transport infrastructure is closely related to urban regeneration and development, the City is creating “greenways” – environment- and people-friendly routes criss-crossing the urban landscape that allow for pedestrian, cycle and public transport lanes, including the Rea Vaya bus rapid transit (BRT) system.

The Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) is integral to these developments, supporting the necessary infrastructure build and encouraging private sector investment in selected nodes along these corridors.

Orlando’s new dual-use walking and cycling path was funded to the tune of R16.2-million by the Department of Environmental Affairs in partnership with German Development Bank KfW.

Herbert Beck, the deputy head of the German mission in the country, said the cycling-walking path opened up an attractive leisure route for local people to enjoy.

“This is a significant investment that will transform Soweto and provide people with a safe off-road option for cycling and walking,” Beck said.

Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Ismail Vadi said cycling was becoming more popular by the day, adding that the new route would further transform Soweto.

“Bicycling is cool. You are going to love cycling. We want the young and old people to use bikes as a mode of transport,” Vadi enthused – before leaving the crowd in stitches with his story of how he met his wife while riding a bike.

Local resident Ramethape Menkele, a passionate cyclist, expressed her delight in the opening of the new route, saying it was “a great facility for both local people and visitors to the area to use”.

The 32-year-old, who reignited her passion for cycling this year after losing interest for some years, added that she now used her bike to get to most places. “I only use public transport when I have to travel far,” Menkele said, adding: “Using my bike has helped me cut down unnecessary travel costs and maintain my health.”

Thabiso Ntunzi, another local resident and keen cyclist, said he looked forward to not having to compete for space with cars. “Thanks to the people and organisations that have worked together to make it happen; we have a route that will benefit both local people and tourists,” Ntunzi said.

After the speeches, Executive Mayor Tau, MEC Vadi and the others donned their helmets and got on their saddles to test the new pathway along with a crowd of local enthusiasts.