Home / Skip Navigation LinksNews & Media / News / Economics, Management and Planning

South Africa: Introducing cycling as a means of transportation

Photo: COWI
In just a few years from now, cyclists' ringing bells and spinning wheels may very well be a common sight in Johannesburg in South Africa.

With less than one per cent of all commuter trips in Johannesburg in South Africa being carried out on two wheels, it is not surprising that few people associate the African metropolis with colourful iron horses and green cycling paths. This may, however, soon be about to change.

Through an active policy agenda, the City of Johannesburg has for a couple of years expressed great interest in finding ways to introduce cycling as an alternative mode of transport. The challenge is not to introduce the concept of cycling to the population, but rather to introduce it as a means of transportation and make it a habit for South Africans to exercise while transporting themselves.

How to make Jo'burgers pedal their way to work

As a first step towards making Johannesburg a greener place with happy cyclists on the city scene, two of COWI's transportation and planning experts from Denmark have been given the task to come up with recommendations on how to make Jo'burgers pedal their way to work.

"This is in many ways a very exciting assignment," agree Project Manager Carsten Glenting and Cycling Expert Henrik Køster.

"But it is also a complex job where serious issues such as traffic safety and personal safety are the primary barriers for turning the place into a cycling city," Carsten continues, referring to Johannesburg's high rates of crime and road accidents.

To defeat these obstacles and to offer the best possible advice, COWI has teamed up with the Danish, independent consultant and ‘cycling guru’ Troels Andersen as well as Gehl Architects and Alta Planning & Design, the two latter agencies both specialized in turning large urban areas into cycling friendly places. All three partners have crucial experience within sustainable transport from New York, San Francisco and major Danish cities.

Cycling workshops coming up

As part of phase one, COWI and its partners have been asked to carry out a pre-feasibility study of what public and public/private-sector projects would best enable, catalyze and support the scaling up of cycling in Johannesburg. The study includes preliminary recommendations on how to:

  • establish public-private infrastructure partnerships to create green corridors and safe parking at bus and train stations

  • set up an affordable bike-sharing scheme allowing as many citizens as possible to actually access a bicycle; the majority of the population may not be able to afford one otherwise

Both issues will be addressed on workshops planned and carried out by COWI in Johannesburg at the end of November.

By Pernille Bang-Ortmann

Published 28.11.2012

LAST UPDATED: 03.07.2014