Not many topics succeed in convening a wide array of personalities and backgrounds around the same table as much as the bicycle does. In Cape Town, some use it as their main mode of transport, some exercise on it daily, some photograph it, some see it as the new trend, some as a way of developing communities, some want to play polo on it and some simply want to ride it fast! Notwithstanding the wide array of agendas, a common love for this old artifact that has marked human history and transformed cities in recent years, has led to the launch of a campaign in the city: “Bicycle Cape Town”
Held at the Josephine Mill on 28 May, 2012, Green Cycle links and drinks was a true sharing of dreams by a rather unexpected group of characters from around the city. In a night full of electrifying and inspiring energy, close to two-hundred people crammed into a limited physical space which gave way to an unlimited range of ideas ranging from the establishment of new programmes like Bogota-inspired car-free Sundays to the speed-driven Sunday shootouts already taken place in Cape Town.
The event, convened by a group of concerned cyclists in Cape Town aimed to highlight the different cycling-related initiatives taking place in the city as well as the many ideas and programmes citizens and government envision as part of the development of the city. From the need to make more affordable bicycles available to all and the creation of more cycle lanes in the city to the promotion of cycling fashion and the engagement of private establishments through “bike mobs”, it was clear there is room and desire for all types of initiatives.
The message was clear: Cape Town needs more bicycles, more often and for more reasons.
Following a video of Bogota’s car-free Sundays programme, which consists in closing down more than 100 kilometers of major roads in the city every Sunday so only non-motorised vehicles can transit; the group which was behind the event presented their initiatives. They included the inspiring collection of bicycle images by Stan Engelbrecht and Nic Grobler “Bicycle Portraits”, the community-driven programmes by the Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN); the trendy fixed-it bicycles on sale by Camissa Bicycles; the different events and promotional work carried out by Cape Town Bicycle Commuter, the emerging Cape Town Community Bike Polo; the tree planting mission of Global Wheeling Foundation’s founder as he cycles around the world; the popular moonlight mass which after only 6 months is already attracting over 500 cyclists on full-moon nights; the Original Ordinaries ‘gang’ on bicycles, the advocacy and information portal Rideyourcity offering all existing bicycle maps to Capetonians, the fast and furious “Sunday Shootouts”; the beautifully crafted bags and other cycling accessories by Urban Cyclist and the filmmaking Wildfire Creative team; who documented the entire meeting.
Following a short 60-second intervention by each one of the aforementioned, the floor opened for everyone to share their ideas and programmes. Think Bike, Green for Life, Earthlife, and others including representatives from the city of Cape Town shared their programmes and expressed their commitment to ensuring the momentum reached by this group would be maximized.
The discussion that followed was not without controversy. Apparently, efforts by different entities in the city have not always been aligned and misunderstandings in the past have proven a challenge in getting concrete actions such as the setting up of bike racks or maintenance, promotion of use of cycle lanes and others. Whatever the case, it was evident the political will is there and collaboration is urgently needed. This campaign may be the conduit to channel the initiatives and to align agendas.
The “Bicycle Cape Town” campaign was born that night. A poster where everyone shared their “vision” and “mission” was one of the objects remaining once the meeting came to an end. The image of a movement starting to unfold. More bicycles, less cars, more aware drivers, and a cyclist-driven society. A city for people and bicycles not for cars promoted through a variety of activities which includes the use of the bicycle as a form of transport, exercise and activism.