Open Letter to City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor Councillor Herman Mashaba

Dear Mayor Mashaba

The Johannesburg Urban Cyclist Association (JUCA) have noted with concern your recent pronouncements, without consultation, on reallocation of budgets for cycling.

We would appreciate the benefit of an audience with yourself and the MMC Transport so we get clarity on the implications of your decision.

We would not want to presume your views and would require further clarity on the following:

1. What is the status of existing and already completed cycling infrastructure?

2. What is the status of cycling infrastructure currently under construction – including the bridge between Alexandra and Sandton?

3. What is the DA Johannesburg’s policy on non-motorized transport? Johannesburg is a city in which two-thirds of households do not have access to private cars.

We at JUCA remain convinced of the multiplier benefits of cycling as a mode of commuter mobility together with walking. These include and are not restricted to:
1. Healthier lifestyles,
2. Improved air quality,
3. Better use of limited urban space,
4. Household savings on mobility costs,
5. Improved access,
6. Safety for all categories of road users.

We hereby request for a reply and/or meeting with yourself as soon as possible so we get official clarity on these matters.

With anticipation,

The Board of Directors, JUCA

40km speed limit and cyclist safety

Road sign in Antrim, County Antrim, August 2009 - image by Ardfern, from Wikimedia Commons
Road sign in Antrim, County Antrim, August 2009 – image by Ardfern, from Wikimedia Commons

JUCA is pleased that the national government has set in motion a process to increase safety on our streets by reducing speed limits. Proposed amendments to the National Road Traffic Act will reduce speed limits within urban areas to 40kms/hour.

This is an important move that could help to reduce the ongoing carnage on our roads. Further it will make our streets more inclusive spaces where others such as pedestrians, trolley pushers, cyclists, people pushing prams, using wheelchairs can move with less trepidation.

International research has shown that reducing vehicle speed limits results in reduced injuries and fatalities. See the table below.

Vehicle Speed Likelihood of fatality to pedestrians
32 kms/hour 3%
48.3kms/hour 20%
64.4kms/hour 90%

Source:Fact Sheet: “30 kph Speed Limits and Cyclist Safety”,

However simply reducing the speed limit without proper enforcement will do little to change driving practices. As it is, even in zones where urban speed limits are set at 60km/hr, there is little compliance. Why is this? The reason is a design one.

Currently, our roads are designed to comfortably cater for higher than posted speed limits. This means that unless there is strict enforcement, it is physically very easy for motorists to achieve higher speeds. In a context where we know that enforcement is poor, the primary solution cannot only be to reduce the legal speed limit.

We have to redesign our streets in a way which reflects the prioritized speed of the preferred modes of transport. For example, narrow roads with calming measures tend to ensure lower speeds and optimal conditions for pedestrians and cyclists. In this we can borrow a leaf from the Vision Zero concept in reducing traffic related injuries and fatalities.

Pioneered in Sweden and now wildly popular elsewhere, Vision Zero is premised simply on the notion that “no loss of life is acceptable.” The starting point for the approach is that most safety issues – most accidents – on our roads occur due to human error. Together with raw evidence as illustrated in the table above that human bodies can only withstand so much physical impact, road systems are designed so that when accidents occur – which they will given the propensity for human error – they are not fatal.

Therefore in addition to reduced speed limits, we also want greater attention to how our roads are designed. If we don’t also attend to road design, we will be fighting a losing battle.

How to travel with your bike on the Gautrain

Experienced commuter cyclist, John-Luke Hutchinson shares his views on commuting by bicycle and Gautrain from Braamfontein to Sandton. Its possible – Gautrain doesn’t make it easy, but its possible.

Believe it or not, you actually can take a bicycle on the Gautrain! You just have to hide it away in a bag. “Why?!” you ask. Apparently for “safety reasons”. If the bicycle goes flying through the air when the train comes to a mad emergency halt or goes off track then the bag will have some safety purpose. I can’t understand it either, but this is actually an explanation given to a friend of mine by management, insisting that his super fancy fold up bicycle be put into a bag.


I find the bag useful for not much other than drawing stares, being somewhat of an inconvenient and peculiar bicycle draping, and allowing me to squeeze any part of the bike up close and personal to a crowd of Sandton business types that have squashed into the elevator.  One time, sharing a lift with a bunch of well-wheeled luggage a woman exclaimed, “My! You must have something very interesting under there!”

“No,” I reply, “It’s just a bicycle.” I pointed to her luggage and said, “I’m sure you’ve got far more interesting things in there!!”


I first discovered this bicycle bag rule when I confidently tried to wheel my bicycle onto the platform. Security would have none of it! You think chewing gum or accidentally opening your bottle of water is a felony on this Gautrain? Just try bringing a bicycle on board! So much for promoting and developing an integrated transport system and making bicycles at the top of Gauteng’s transport strategy.

Now, what’s highly strange is you can wheel many other items on board: baby prams, traveling luggage or your wheel chair – all without a bag. And, when those items get airborne I’m sure they’re going to do as much damage as my bicycle…

Anyways, I comply to the rules. I made this large black sack that I can  haul out and throw completely over the bike. No ways am I taking the wheels off, I’m trying to do an efficient, breezy commute here. Not a whole procedure in bicycle mechanics! (I once met a guy with his bike packed away, wheels off, in a snazzy bag. He was in full lycra and told me his commute from Centurion to those fancy FNB offices in Randburg took the same by Gautrain and bicycle than by car. I was well impressed. He was also training for single speed off road champs… respect!)


So in goes the bike, in it’s big black Batman bag, and I have to carry the bike which is quite a strange sight but not an alarm starter for the Gautrain guards. They just look past me dully, it’s quite peculiar. They really seem in a daze unless you’re setting off those rule breaking alarms (I have even seen them stop a guy from entering the station because he was carrying a skateboard! It’s amazing!) I have yet to try wheeling my bike right onto the platform and then only putting it into the bag.


So, what’s it like catching the train with a bicycle? It’s a bit of procedural hassle and you get the sense that you’re sticking out like you would if you tried catching a flight with a coffin on wheels for luggage! But I’ll do it as much as I can because it’s worth it! I must be out the apartment and cruising down the hill to Park station by 06:00. I’ve bagged the bike and hit the platform for the 06:12 train, out at Sandton and in the lift, in the bus and down the road. Up a short hill and I’m at the office before the 07:00 clock in time.

That’s about three times my vehicle commute, but it’s not only precise it’s also meditative – I’m not in traffic as traffic, I’m weaving in between traffic on my bicycle, I’m speeding underground on the train or relaxing on the bus. I get to work with not much hassle of being hot and sweaty and the bonus is I can ride all the way home which is the most meditative part of my day!

Follow Luke on Instagram @104Ansteys for more Gautrain-Bike pictures.

Opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of JUCA.

8-80: Could your kids cycle to school?

Renowned liveable cities guru, Gil Penalosa, argues that the sign of a good city is one that is as friendly to an 8 year old as it is to an 80 year old. Would you let your child cycle to school? Why or why not? JUCA believes we can work towards a city in which children and the elderly are safe to be out on their bicycles. Part of this is infrastructure designed to keep everyone safe, another part is encouraging a culture of cycling and walking rather than driving.


As a way to contribute to that, JUCA has developed a cycling map containing some routes that offer a degree of comfort. You can see the routes here. JUCA members have ridden and reviewed all the routes highlighted in blue on the map, and marked in red the more challenging sections (typically because of heavier traffic). With this map in hand, you could help work out the safest route for your child to cycle to school.

This is version 1 of the map. We will be working on developing an extended version covering a greater geography. In adddition, street conditions are constantly changing in all directions including new biking routes coming online (hyperlink to Version 2 will therefore contain these amendments. Most importantly we need your ongoing feedback in oder to identify new routes and revise current ones.

Try our routes to go school, university,  the office, to go shopping or for a drink, to go wherever, really, and let us know about your experience:

• On twitter @Joburg_Cyclists;

• On our Facebook page:

• On email:

Commuter Cycling in Beijing

JUCA’s David Du Preez and Mehita Iqani had the opportunity to spend a few days in Beijing, China in July this year.

Beijing is a city of almost 12 million inhabitants and the capital of China. During the height of the communist era, the bicycle was the government-endorsed mode of transport for the people, and considered one of the three “must-haves” for a comfortable life, to the extent that the nation “became known as zixingche wang guo, the Kingdom of Bicycles”.

Since the 1990s, China’s economy moved to a version of free-market economics, and has witnessed one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, second only to the United States. Since China’s economic boom, cars have become more popular in big cities like Beijing. Nevertheless, there are still millions of bicycles in the city, and its flat topography, wide streets and generous, protected bicycle lanes on every street make it the commuter cyclists dream.


Bicycle lanes are extremely wide, able to accommodate two to three cycles abreast, as well as the ubiquitous electric scooters – which although only slightly faster than the bicycles, tend to be respectful of cyclists.


Bicycle lanes were typically separated by little white fences from the motorized traffic, and at times were also protected by a row of parked cars.


We were struck by the general sense of respect which all road users showed each other. We saw very few cars or mopeds speeding, and all users of the bicycle lanes seemed to show great awareness of the movements of other bicycle lane users.



Bicycle lanes had protected balustrades to ensure that other vehicles could not use them.


It was such a pleasure to see old and young people on bicycles – from white-haired grandparents to little children standing between their parents legs on the front of an electric bicycle.


Bicycle parking was ample and plenty – available on practically every street corner.


Many narrow roads (or hutongs) were closed to motor traffic.


Commuters used their bicycles to transport many things – even their pets!



The wide, flat roads made even long commutes possible – we managed was a 24km round trip from central Beijing to the 789 Art District.


Beijing (and many other Chinese cities) also have bike share schemes.


Even though the car seems to be growing in popularity in Beijing, there are some moves by the government to re-popularize the bicycle as a move to reduce pollution, which is serious problem due to the country’s rapid industrialisation. In general, the Chinese attitude to providing infrastructure for commuter cycling was inspiring and showed a real commitment to the common good. Johannesburg could learn a lot from this model cyclist-friendly city.