CapeTown links low-cost domestic manufacture to eight-fold cycle commute ambition

Cape Town has published a draft strategy within which it proposes to bring about a cycling revolution with the creation of both low-cost local bike manufacture and a new bike share scheme.

At present, the average citizen in the South African coastal city spends up to 45% of their income on transport, significantly more than the global average of closer to 10%.

This disparity, says city committee member for transport Brett Herron, presents an opportunity for a drastic shift in modal share toward cheaper means of transport, primarily cycling.

He said: “The available cycling data indicates that approximately 1% of all trips in Cape Town are made by bicycle. In addition, despite the popularity of recreational cycling and participation in cycling events like the annual Cape Town Cycle Tour, the uptake of utility cycling remained stagnant for the past decade.

“These surveys confirm that commuters either do or will cycle, but that the majority of residents cannot afford bicycles. Given the fact that low-income transport users in Cape Town spend up to 45% of their monthly household income on transport, while the international norm is between 5% and 10%, cycling is an affordable alternative – provided that we improve access to bicycles in these communities.

“‘Ironically, some of these challenges provide us with a golden opportunity for growing our local economy, should we succeed in cultivating a cycling culture. For example, we want to explore the possibility of establishing a bicycle manufacturing plant in Cape Town that can build and provide low-cost bicycles for low-income households. Such an investment and a bike-share system will lead to job creation – but then we need our residents to take to the streets and to start a cycling revolution.”

Having invested in cycling infrastructure, in part in a bid to bolster its tourism, locals and visitors are to benefit from a further 160 kilometres of cycle paths laid down by the spring of this year. The city already has around 450 kilometres of cycle path.

Despite the generous provision for cycling, official figures show that cycling has just a 1% modal share during the morning rush hour, something which the city wants to increase eight fold by 2030. The lanes do however prove popular for leisure cycling.

Herron has further encouraged employers to begin to provide lockers, changing rooms and showers for staff. As is largely the case elsewhere around the globe, motorists are to be encouraged to share the road where cycle infrastructure is unavailable.

The draft strategy is open for public comment until February 21.