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Life in the slow lane

Nov 14 2012 06:56 Adriaan Bester

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THINKING back now to my first cycle to the office, the final event that pushed me onto the saddle and down the hill is just a faded memory in my ageing bank of images.

What I do know is that my search for alternative transport to my place of work is now nearly in its second year.

It is not easy to determine the precise savings I have made over the period or to pronounce the life enhancements I have experienced since then, mostly because I’m too lazy to do so, but also because I do not know where to start such a calculation.

What I can tell you is that I missed a whole month of having to fill up the petrol tank recently, and that it was an important month to do so.

You may recall the great fuel price hikes of October 2012. Well, I am happy to report that I skipped that altogether and cycled my way towards the reduced fuel prices of November.

The thing with cycling, as with most other cults in life, is to beware of the subcultures.

You have to be clear what you want from it; it will help with an assortment of choices that await once you first take to the pedal: outfits, gear, timing of day to cycle, attitude to other road users, and ultimately size of shrinking (previously) oversized body parts.

Mine was a search for alternatives to the daily commute, to avoid parking and fuel costs: it grew a tentacle of fitness to help me survive the hilly bits of my week – and to keep the lungs from collapsing on the mid-week huff back home.

It is on my weekend excursions, often un-Lycrad, where I have to steel myself for those within my (cycling) culture that instantly recognise me as a non-sporty type: in short, I stick to the slow lane, mostly taking the scenic drives.

Often, I combine the outing with a bag of goods in my carry bag to have a mid-cycle picnic.

The parallels between living in a society of diverse views, and cycling for the different reasons that man may find necessary, are not lost on me.

And yet, as is the case within the bigger spatial bubble of society, cyclists too face the perils of stereotyped attitudes, regulations and rules – designed both for their good and those who share the road with them.

Such was my discovery when attending the City of Cape Town’s first Cycling Safety Discussion this week. Addressed by no less than three local government ministers (MECs) and a mayoral committee member, the Western Cape is geared to the national priority of making cycling a safe alternative option in public transport.

While some argued about the space between a cyclist and vehicles on the road for ultimate safety, others pondered the practice of wearing helmets or whether cyclists should in fact be forced to stop (and wait) at a red traffic light.

Bylaws are another obstacle on the road to free cycling, including one that prevents any form of trade from your bicycles in our city at the moment (turning the sweet ice cream man into an instant villain).

In a sick twist of irony, it was the one day I had to drive my car to get to the inner city of Cape Town (my excuse was an unseasonal early morning thunderstorm).

While I was reminded by a speaker to butch up in Cape Town’s weather if I want to be considered a serious commute cyclist, the preaching came a bit too late, and I was left with a R60 parking bill at the covered garage for the four hours I parked in its seemingly platinum-layered protection.

I joined the discussion to convince myself that what feels like my lonely efforts to start a cycling revolution take place within a bigger swirl of cycling swooshes that will create a critical mass for safe and cheap commuting.

 - Fin24

Adriaan tweets about his #LoneCyclist observations for @FutureCapeTown as @aiBester.


 

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