In a city of 10 million designed around the car – but where most can’t afford one – could bicycles be the answer? The legacy of apartheid planning makes change difficult but cyclists are pushing and, crucially, they have the mayor’s support
By 2030, the UN’s population division predicts Johannesburg will be one of six megacities in Africa, its sprawling urban area home to 11.6 million people. Traffic congestion is already reaching what Simphiwe Ntuli, director for infrastructure at the city’s transport department, declares to be “impossible” levels. It’s not uncommon for a sudden snarl-up to add 90 minutes or more to a short journey, and a two-mile rush-hour drive from the rich northern suburbs to the swanky skyscrapers of Sandton can take an hour. “If everyone comes into the city by car, then nobody can move,” says Ntuli. “We need a solution.” At present, though, it seems the Diepsloot cyclists are not the norm: Johannesburg’s cycle modal share – the percentage of journeys taken by bike – is just 0.2%, or one in every 500 trips.
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