Like riding a bike? Cape Town sees a rise in cycling culture

Posted by Anita Froneman on 28 April 2022

With South Africa producing around 33% of the continent’s carbon emissions and petrol prices continually on the up, cycling is a great way to combat climate change and keep fit while saving money.

Home to the famed Cape Town Cycle Tour, the world’s largest timed cycle race, the city is geared to ensure that cycling – for leisure, pleasure, sport or fitness – is a cinch in the Mother City.

In the central city, too, cyclists are back in the saddle. According to Kirsten Wilkins, avid cyclist and managing director of Open Streets, group rides are on the increase with people keen to capitalise on the last days of summer and reconnect with friends. Wilkins, who was a motivating force behind downtown Cape Town’s pre-pandemic Friday lunchtime rides through the inner city, says cycling in the CBD has gone through several ebbs and flows over the last 24 months. 

During the lockdowns, she saw more people cycling in a traffic-free city centre. Now, she’s seeing the return of social group rides. Remote work has helped reduce traffic, which has also been positive across the inner-city precincts when it comes to cycling. 

With more than one iconic bike shop, the CBD is home to impressive gear heads. East City Cycles is one of the trendy bike shops in the heart of the CBD that specialises in a range of services and sell an impressive array of bikes. Co-owner Jarryd Haley says that, of late, he has also noticed the cycling culture seems to be gaining momentum once again.

‘We are seeing more and more people getting gravel bikes, which are essentially road bikes with wider tyres. We think that a big part of this may have to do with the fact that those types of tyres make it easier to get up and down pavements and deal with bad road surfaces,’ says Haley.

Cycling to work is the new lift club

With the price of petrol becoming a huge concern, cycling to work has become an enticing option for many commuters who are looking to cut costs. In the past, one of the problems commuters faced was the lack of options when it came to storing their bikes. Fortunately, there are enterprising bands of CBD commercial landlords and entrepreneurs who are addressing the problem.

At The Box, the flagship skyscraper of Boxwood Property Fund in Riebeek St in the CBD, tenants who like to cycle to work can now lock up their bikes in an indoor ‘bike park’, with added shower pods and lockers. The bike park forms part of a R70 million renovation and is part of Boxwood’s move to make the office environment warmer and more conducive to the needs of workers in a bid to encourage them to come back to town.

The bike parking bays and showers at The Box can be rented for R300 per month, which, for a limited time, includes the first three months free and a free coffee every month at Seattle Coffee Co at Boxwood’ ground floor SALT Food Market. 

CEO of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) Tasso Evangelinos said: ‘The Cape Town CBD has long had a strong bike and cycling culture with iconic bike shops, knowledgeable retailers and enthusiastic and committed bikers. Cycling in the CBD was gaining momentum before the pandemic struck, and it is heartening to see it re-emerging as business owners, landlords and workers embrace the trend once again. This buys into the greater Mother City biking culture and bodes well for our downtown.’

Gearing up for a good time

One of the other reasons that cycling culture has gained so much steam is thanks to its combination of the social and physical benefits.

Social riding, in particular, has grown, with a number of popular group rides and events now available for cyclists of all skill levels to get involved in. 

On the first and third Thursday of every month, weather permitting, Rook Cycles, based in the East City, hosts the Thursday Night Ride Club, where enthusiasts of any fitness level can cycle en masse around the inner city.

Similarly, Fixie Fit SA host regular Wednesday afternoon rides that typically begin between 17h30pm and 18h00. There’s also the Moonlight Critical Mass, which happens on full-moon evenings, starting at the Greenpoint Circle. Everyone is welcome to join and explore the city by bike, at night. 

A big part of encouraging – and capitalising on – the upsurge in the cycling culture is ensuring there are multiple ‘pit stops’ for thirsty cyclists, where cycling attire is welcomed and most are open even before 8 am for pre-work, post-rides coffees. Try these:

Pang’s Speciality Coffee in Bree St

– Revolution Cycles in Bree St

Cafe Frank in Bree St

– Bootlegger in Harrington St

Picture: Unsplash

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