This year marks the 200th anniversary of the bicycle, a wonderful reminder that initially roads were not built for cars.
Paved surfaces and pneumatic tyres were innovated through the development of the bicycle as an elegant, resource-efficient mode of transport.
The frustration of modern-day traffic congestion and fossil fuel pollution has us looking forward to more innovations, yet the simplicity and efficiency of the bicycle is proving to be the most accessible and simple solution to the congealed mess our roads have become.
This is one of the reasons Open Streets can be a catalyst to think about mobility differently. On a car-free street, no matter how temporary it may be, we have the opportunity to get on that 200-year-old – yet still fashionable – vehicle and experience what free movement feels like.
This year the Plainsman, Vukani’s sister newspaper, has partnered with Open Streets to offer a safe way for cyclists to get to Open Streets Mitchell’s Plain on Sunday April 2.
They will be organising a bike bus to get to the event on the vintage vehicle which is being promoted through a number of initiatives across the city such as the Bikes4All programme, a collaboration between BEN Bikes and the Pedal Power Association making bicycles available to disadvantaged communities and institutions to promote utility cycling.
Other private organisations and individuals are also are finding ways to use the bicycle as an engine for mobility and self-reliance.
Urban designer and bicycle advocate Kirsten Wilkins regularly commutes 14km to work by bicycle.
“Not every day, but I’m mindful that if it’s a good day to ride and I don’t have a lot of gear to carry, I leave my car behind.”
She averages a petrol saving of two tanks a month. That’s a considerable amount of money that can be used more wisely. And, most days, the bicycle ride is faster than the start-stop battle through the M3 rush-hour traffic.
On Sunday April 2, people will have an opportunity to experience what Kirsten does by joining the Plainsman Bike Bus from Claremont to Open Streets Mitchell’s Plain.
And children will have the opportunity to learn about cycling safety and other fun bicycle-related things at the Open Streets bike hub.
A bike bus is an organised group ride where participants share the insider knowledge that comes from being familiar and confident on two wheels, paired with the desire to share that knowledge with others.
The mix of skilled riders and those newer to pedal-powered transport makes for a safe and valuable experience. Bicycle riding skills and basic bicycle maintenance knowledge are part of the skill sets that will be developed along this 22km ride across the city.
It is by no means a new concept. Every day, hundreds of cyclists ride together and commute in groups coordinated through text messaging. This assists with safety, builds friendships and encourages others to make positive car-free choices.
The Plainsman Bike Bus will be a wonderful social ride too that allows participants to feel confident enough to join a weekday commute, meet other riders and ultimately reduce travel times and costs.
The 22km ride departs from Knead Bakery, Palmyra Junction, Claremont, at 10.30am on Sunday April 2. A return guided trip will leave Eisleben Road at 2.30pm for those wanting to double the fun. Take your own working bicycle, a helmet, a water bottle and sun protection.