Sindile Mavundla used to ride a red BMX bicycle to school every day as a child, which was unusual for the township of Khayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa, at the time. Mavundla knew not many individuals who possessed a bicycle and would allow his companions to take a turn on his.
He knew there weren’t enough opportunities for people to start cycling when he was young. Presently, matured 33, he’s attempting to amend that as one of Africa’s couple of bike city chairmen.
Since its inception in 2016 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the global Bicycle Mayor Network has more than 100 members who promote cycling in their countries. There is a bicycle mayor in Botswana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria, in addition to Mavundla.
“Our responsibility is to quick track the take-up of cycling, investigate how we work on our framework, and present various thoughts on the most proficient method to be even more a decent city, with a bike at the middle,” Mavundla made sense of.
Africa’s bicycle mayors
Mavundla’s goal as Cape Town’s bicycle mayor is to make South Africa’s cycling culture more diverse and accessible.
He collaborates with the non-profit Active Mobility Forum to implement safer infrastructure, affordable bicycles, and cycling clinics that teach road safety to make biking to work more accessible to local communities.
Mavundla opened Khaltsha Cycles in 2019 as a bike shop to encourage cycling in townships. Over 260 riders have formed a community, with the majority incorporating cycling into their daily commute.
Additionally, he collaborated with the mobility non-profit Qhubeka to provide Thembelihle High School in Cape Town with 1,220 bicycles. According to Mavundla, Bike2Learn workshops have taught over 1,200 Thembelihle students ranging in age from 15 to 18, with 85% of them riding bikes to school.
A child will walk approximately 15 kilometers to school, and by the time they get there, they are already exhausted. However, if you provide them with a bike, they will arrive prepared to learn,” he stated.
Pushing for change
According to Neil Robinson, CEO of the Pedal Power Association in Cape Town, cycling has increased in popularity in South Africa over the past few years, but it is still not widely practiced.
Robinson explained that while major events like the Absa Cape Epic Mountain Bike race and the Cycle Tour, the world’s largest timed cycling race, take place in Cape Town, only 1% of daily commutes in Western Cape are made by bicycle.
According to a government report from 2020, 28% of all trips are made by bicycle in the Netherlands, where there are 1.3 bikes per person and 0.1 in South Africa.
Robinson has put forth an aggressive objective of having 5% of Cape Town’s populace driving by bike by 2030.
The poorest people in South Africa spend a lot of their money on public transportation. However, giving them a bicycle opens up economic opportunities, he stated.
Robinson says there are numerous deterrents to survive, like robbery, absence of safe foundation, and social perspectives towards cycling.
According to Mavundla, cycling is frequently regarded as a sign of low income as a mode of transportation for commuters. However, perceptions are gradually shifting.
Mavundla stated, “I used to ride my bike with a suit while I was still working in corporate, and that changed a lot of perceptions.” Since I have a car and choose to ride my bike, that surprised people.
Spinning Into action
Lebogang Mokwena, Cape Town’s most memorable bike chairman, acquainted Learn2Cycle classes with the city, enabling more ladies to take up cycling and become familiar with the guidelines of the street. Mavundla teaches over 200 women to cycle, expanding Mokwena’s efforts. He stated, “We welcome everyone, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status.” As long as you enjoy cycling, it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you do.
Zintle Limba is a Cape Town occupant who had never ridden a bicycle until she took part in a Learn2Cycle example.
“To have a bicycle, where I come from, is an extravagance,” she said. ” Society says that ladies ought not be riding bicycles since it’s not polite. I believe we’ve moved on from those times.
Even though the situation has improved since he was a young boy, Mavundla acknowledges that the cycling culture in South Africa still has a long way to go in terms of diversity. He stated that “Wealthy, White people” were the only ones who practiced cycling as a sport, despite the fact that it is frequently criticized as a mode of transportation. But he thinks that things will change.
Mavundla stated, “You start to see small pockets of people of color coming into that space.” I think we are arriving, inch by inch.”