Exploring the state of cycling in South Africa’s top three cities: Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.
Cycling is growing in popularity in South Africa. The sport caters for both young and old as a means of keeping fit, exploring the outdoors and being a “green” option for commuting.
South Africa’s cycling routes are among the most varied and versatile in the world and beg to be discovered, but which is the ultimate cycle-friendly city in the country?
We have explored South Africa’s top three cities to uncover what they each have to offer for the cycling community:
Johannesburg is a bustling African city of note. It is the largest city in South Africa, serving as a unique and diverse metropolis to a few million people. Johannesburg is considered the economic powerhouse of the country and is without doubt the wealthiest.
On a sports front - the city is beginning to reinvent itself by encouraging cycling as the most desirable form of transport.
In an attempt to transform Gauteng into a cycle-friendly playground, approximately R120 million was allocated by the Johannesburg Development Agency towards the creation of cycle lanes and biking routes across Johannesburg.
A commuter cycling map which covers 100km’s of safe cycling routes in the city was developed by the Johannesburg Urban Cycling Association (JUCA) – a biking initiative created in 2012 to help give bike commuters a voice and to encourage citizens to swap their car keys for bicycle helmets.
Johannesburg also has a few momentous cycling events that occur each year. The Momentum 94.7 race is one favourite that takes cyclists throughout the Northern suburbs of the city and is considered the world’s second largest timed race which attracted around 23 000 cyclists in 2013. Another prominent cycle event in the city is the annual 27km Freedom Ride Jozi race which travels through Soweto and neighbouring suburbs and showcases the potential of recreational cycling.
The city also has a few popular cycle routes in the following areas:
- PWC Bike Park which is situated in Bryanston, features an array of beautiful cycle routes for both beginners and pro’s alike. The park also offers a BMX and pump track overlooking a natural wetland.
- Thaba Trails nature reserve in the south of Johannesburg is another city favourite for cyclists that has a variety of colour coded trails indicating the ride difficulty that can be expected for each route travelled.
Avid cyclists can also enjoy the company of fellow riders by joining local bike clubs which offer weekly social rides in and around the town. Fixin Diaries, who sell custom-built bicycles, holds a weekly social ride in Soweto as well as Critical Mass who hosts cycle rides on the last Friday of each month to encourage biking as the best form of commuting.
These small gestures in and around the city have become a starting point in creating a well-recognised cycling environment.
The city of Durban is known for being a natural paradise with its sun-kissed beaches and subtropical climate. It is built around one of the busiest ports in South Africa, but it’s the city’s scenic coastline which is the ultimate attraction and has become a hit among cycling enthusiasts.
Durban’s beachfront promenade was revamped in 2010 and has grown into a revitalising space for runners, walkers, skaters, and cyclists who flock to the promenade for a sporty day of fun in the sun, or to take in the ocean breeze during their daily workout.
The promenade offers a variety of bicycle hire shops which are popular amongst both locals and tourists. For just R50 an hour, you can hire a bicycle and enjoy a vigorous ride from one end of the promenade to the other, alongside the magnificent Indian ocean or the prominent Moses Mabhida Stadium.
The city is fast becoming a cycle-friendly arena as the local government continues to promote the use of non-motorised traveling in order to optimise pedestrian safety and to encourage commuters to use alternative forms of transportation. The idea is to alleviate traffic congestion and reduce the city’s CO² emissions.
According to Carlos Esteves, deputy head of road systems management, about R40 million has been spent on the creation of exclusive cycle lanes for bikers. Many of the routes which are already complete, pass through Durban’s tourist hot spots, such as uShaka Marine World, Greyville racecourse and Moses Mabhida Stadium. The routes also take cyclists through the bustle of Florida Road and Mitchell Park.
Durban certainly houses a few popular cycle routes that offer a revitalising outdoor experience for the everyday cyclist. The must-see attractions in the town is the Giba Gorge Mountain Bike Park in Pinetown and the MTB Trails in Karkloof which is regarded as the best trail riding destination in South Africa.
With Durban eager to make itself a bicycle-friendly city, the aQuellé Tour Durban has been embraced by recreational cyclists as a significant opportunity to take full biking advantage of. The annual 45km fun ride begins and ends at the Moses Mabhida Stadium, taking riders through the M4 up to Umdloti and back, with striking views of the sea throughout.
The city also has a few well known bike clubs that offers cyclists a place to gather, host weekly events and socialize. Cyclesphere and Kings Park Cycling Clubs are two such examples of the many bike clubs that the city has to offer.
With more plans in the pipeline by the local municipality, Durban is definitely on its way to becoming ‘well-cycled’ in no time!
Cape Town, perched between the ocean and the mountain, with a national park as its heart, is a vibrant area popularly referred to as the “Mother City” for being oldest in South Africa.
It reigns as the ultimate cycle-friendly city in the country and is one of the few South African towns to receive global recognition for its cycling efforts.
The city prides itself with more than just cycle paths and an eco-friendly environment. Cape Town is actively promoting the use of bicycles through the development of bike-friendly cafe’s, shops and places to stay which cater for residents and tourists who opt for two wheels rather than four.
It is also one of the few cities in the country that holds a bicycle master plan which was created in the 1980’s with a long line of cycle projects and facilities in the works for the City Bowl and surrounding suburbs. The last few years have fast transformed commuter life in Cape Town through the integration of bicycles and public transport services like Metrorail and MyCiTi bus which actively promote an alternative carbon-friendly way of travelling around the city. Public transport in the city accommodates for the everyday cyclist by being able to take your bike on board when faced with bad cycling weather, a long trip ahead or any gaps in the cycleway network.
The city also launched the green paint initiative where all cycle lanes in and around Cape Town were painted green in an effort to actively highlight the incorporation of cycle lanes as well as to promote safety and awareness for vehicles and pedestrians. This project was more than just a cycle-friendly gesture but it also befitted the economy by being a labour intensive project that aimed to give jobless people temporary work, the ability to gain new skills and increase their chances of earning an income.
One of the green cycle routes is the 16km cycle path which runs from Cape Town’s city centre to Table View. This route is the longest dedicated cycle path in South Africa and is most popular by cyclists for its extensive pathway and amazing views.
Cape Town is a South African hub committed to offering everything an active bike rider and cycling enthusiast could want. From bicycle shops, rental tours, bike cafes, biking businesses ventures and a wide variety of social rides, bike festivals and activities - Cape Town has everything to keep your cycling adrenaline pumping in a safe and secure cycle-friendly environment.
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