Thursday, August 15, 2013

Learning to Bike in Cape Town

I'm learning to bike with our folding bike in Cape Town, and for the most part, I ride every afternoon from home to the UCT medical campus, across from Groote Schuur hospital. There's a few things I have been surprised to learn:

1) Biking with a good bike really makes a difference to both the experience and the amount I ride. With our cheapo Makro bikes, I often chose to walk or drive because it was hard to manouver them in and out of the house. It may also have been the stage in my life with Eli being small, but it feels as though this bike has really jumpstarted our riding. Sharing one bike that stays inside the house is really easy, even though we have to unfold it first.

2) Main Road is scary. I had to ride down main road from Mowbray to Woodstock, and between the minibus taxis and the other buses, I felt intimidated and vulnerable. The minibus taxis are, for the most part, very observant (even if not observant of traffic laws) but still, it's totally worth using side rodes below main road and taking a little longer.

3) I can understand the no-helmet folks. I used to think that people who biked without a helmet were crazy, but I now find myself biking without a helmet when I'm travelling short distances on fairly quiet roads. I feel like I'm more aware of my environment and am able to interact with people on my ride. I feel I don't sweat as much, so I'm not as self-concsious when I arrive at university. I also feel like the more I interact with drivers and try to communicate my intentions, the safer I am. It may still be foolhardy.

4) When I look drivers in the eye, smile, and wave my intention, they tend to be really nice. At first, when I was feeling insecure in the busy intersection before the hospital (Main Rd and Anzio), I tried to be assertive and just ended up more angry. Then I shifted to being friendly and outgoing and it really helped. My take home from this is that most drivers want to do the right thing, but they're not used to bikes.

Anyway, I'm very much a novice biker in Cape Town but biking around the city is very much a possibility, and I'm hoping we get to explore biking as our primary mode of transportation over the next year. If you're more experienced (or not, but you have tips), I would love to hear from you!

1 comment:

Nix said...

I am impressed. To be honest, it is main road that puts me off cycling to work. Even though it is only 4km from my house to campus. Will chat to you some more about this over coffee.