What difference can a bike make?!
Bicycles are good for people. They bring health, mobility, independence and social cohesion.
Bicycles are good for the environment. They are, quite simply, the greatest invention of all time.
In the 9 years of BEN, I have personally witnessed the good that bicycles can bring to individuals, families, communities, towns and cities. We can build friendly, cohesive environments which allow people to move slowly and freely amongst one another, in a manner that allows us all to really get in touch with where we are, who we live and move amongst. It is amazing how insular we have all become in South Africa, compared to cities where there are large bicycling populations, such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen and, recently increasingly so, London. In many of these large cities, people meet and greet on the streets and connect with one another.
They smile at intersections, with the business executive on a R30000 bike and the labourer on a R250 bike really meeting as equals, both going about their daily lives under their own pedal power. Perhaps there will be a smile, a gesture, an extended hand, a short conversation, like "the weather looks good today, not much wind, cycling is easy". It is one of the most encouraging sights in a modern city. This simply does not occur with the same impact and meaning from behind the closed windows of cars.
All we have to do is to have more commuting bikes at the right cost, and the education and training programs in place to ensure that this is done in a healthy and safe manner. And bike lanes, we need bike lanes, in much the same way that we need sidewalks/pavements for pedestrians.
As we at BEN have found, one of the biggest reasons for not cycling is that there simply are not enough safe facilities. The City of Cape Town is beginning to address this, and we applaud this, whilst at the same time calling for far more infrastructure to be planned and built. We now have the opportunity to address many social ills, poverty, obesity, unemployment, lack of access, and the great divides between diverse communities. The humble bicycle can do much to address many of these issues, and in a way that does not result in 140 million deaths.
If you are in living or travelling in Cape Town, you MUST join the BEN for a township tour in Masiphumelele on the Cape Peninsula.