Surviving as a student bicyclist

I have always advocated the use of bicycles and others forms of transport to reduced our carbon footprints (well mostly in my head) and to skip traffic. However, I never really bicycled and did the things I was advocating with regards to using other forms of transport.


That all changed when I travelled around Europe for a month, on my own, with only a Eurail train ticket. I now try to bicycle to events, university and the shops which are all generally within a decent bicycling distance. My usage of the Metrorail trains in Cape Town has also increased (even forcing friends to take it with me!).


Europe showed me that actually, Cape Town has a pretty decent public transport system and that bicycling isnʼt such a difficult means to get to places. Now I am not against cars – I own one, and I still use it (a lot). Iʼm just trying to cut down on unnecessary usage of it. Cape Town has a pretty extensive train network. Yes, it requires a lot of upgrading, better management and trains – but for now it does an okay job of taking you to places. The city is also in the beginning stages of the Integrated Rapid Transit system, the MyCiTi Busses, rollout. Unfortunately it is not in my area yet – but if I ever could take it and Iʼm in an area serviced by them I take them.


Bicycling isnʼt everyoneʼs cup of tea. I was also hesitant with the idea of bicycling to places. It rains, you sweat and your hair gets messed up. But what I saw in Europe, was that people bicycle even if itʼs raining cats and dogs. They even bicycled when it was snowing! So this really showed me that: twak – I can bicycle in Cape Town. However, my biggest problem with bicycling is not the sweating (which is still a problem) or my ʻdoʼ getting messed up: it is drivers of motorised vehicles, pedestrian and other bicyclistsʼ usage habits of our roads.


An example: I now bicycle to Cavendish Shopping mall if I want to watch a movie or do other random things (you wonʼt generally find me in a mall). It also saves me a lot of money because paying for parking is such an unnecessary stupid cost to me. Anyways, its a shortish 4km trip to Cavendish made somewhat safer with the Rondebosch Bicycle Pathways.


Itʼs cleverly designed, but has its few flaws and disconnections between the different pathways.At a certain stage one is forced to cross the busy Campground Road to continue using the Bicycle Pathway. Only problem is, even if its a marked crossing with appropriate signage, no vehicles stop to let you as pedestrian or bicyclist cross. Such a bad habit of South African drivers! In the video it seemed like I crossed safely, but I quickly crossed in a short moment when no cars would have driven over me. I really feel like pushing my bicycle in front of a big ass Range Rover when Iʼm at that crossing.


The City of Cape Town really needs to add a pedestrian traffic light at this specific crossing. Many school children use it and I have noticed that a lot of bicycle users (not professional cyclists) make a crossing there. Even speed humps on Campground Road will help.

I will in future posts highlight these problems which I, as a bicycle user,experience and how they could be fixed. I do however know that even if these things are fixed, problems will still persist because of our habits that are horribly wrong.


I will highly recommend checking out the 3-Way Road campaign created by Ron in New York City.

About Rouen Smit

Future actuary working at a company based in Cape Town. Love open water swimming. Love taking public transport and feeling the city. The Future’s Bright

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