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Petrol pain

Oct 24 2012 07:00 *Adriaan Bester

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TO CONVINCE myself that I’m free of the dreaded modern Fear Of Missing Out fever, I have been keeping a very close eye on the placement of my fuel tank’s needle recently, using it to gauge this FOMO disease.

Staying put has been a good change of scenery; when necessary and possible, I explored some form of alternative transport.

Today marks my 23rd consecutive day of avoiding a fill-up at the fuel station. While my ageing, dirty little Swedish monster now sniffs fumes to get up the hill on its near-empty tank, the milestone remains a worthy celebration in my books.

Achieving this required a series of uphill cycles against windy conditions, or brisk walks to the nearest MyCiTi bus station from my house, about four kilometers away.

Or a combination of the two. And the occasional, yet carefully negotiated ride in a friend’s car.

Most of all, it required resilience not to be everywhere, all the time. And then counting the cost of getting there at the same time.

In a test of focus, I stared temptation in the eye on Sunday for a trip to Grassy Park where the City of Cape Town launched its first Open Streets initiative.

Aware of the grip of FOMO I reconsidered, and instead followed the fun on Twitter through the eyes of other urban voyagers.

Promoted as an urban initiative to close off selected streets on Sundays to cars and open them up to cyclists, pedestrians and their dogs, I ticked many boxes of the target audience.

In fact, my dog #Ben got wing of it too, and was already dusting off his walking shoes.

Ironically, the only way to get there involved burning the last few drops in the tank, which I was hoping could last until the next, inevitable petrol hike.

So with a brief note of envy, I shot off a tweet: “Would have loved to take @MyCitiBus with my bike and #Ben to #openstreet in Grassy Park. Fuel costs to get there outweighs the fun.”

It is still early days to expect public transport to connect us to one another effortlessly, but strides are being made towards it.

What followed my tweet was a day at home, filled with information and photos from faraway friends. And FOMO was smothered.

Of course, the search for coexistence of human species moving from one place to another is as ongoing as the migration of buffalo across Africa.

Consider the surprise recently when the usually pedestrian-only promenade in Sea Point was opened to any form of non-motorised transport, such as bicycles, skaters and pram-pushers during the city’s celebration of Public Transport Month.

What appeared to be an innocent and peace-loving gesture to rally locals towards finding alterative ways of getting around (let alone living in harmony) was met with glares by hardened walkers, followed by fingers pointing at fading "no-cycling" signage on the paving.

Is this a classical case of "One man’s search for alternative ways of interacting with his surrounds becomes another man’s struggle with those that disrupt his peaceful walk to the other side of the promenade"?

Such is the challenge of modern city living: while I balance my FOMO on the fumes of a shrinking petrol tank, encouraging efforts to open streets for families and furry friends to find each other, another urbanite fights to keep the picture unchanged, and suggests mothballing structures that remind us of the efforts we have created to roll us forward.

The fine balance of urban pleasure seekers and those set in traditional ways are now running in dual carriage, with fumes, spokes and walking sticks flying in between. Bring on the alternative urban transport revolution.

*On Twitter, Adriaan cycles as the #LoneCyclist via @aiBester


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