Cycling, sustainable cities and the use of our roads

Worldwide, cycling - particularly as a form of non-motorised transport - is seen and encouraged as a ‘good green thing’. Besides the physical exercise involved, which is undoubtedly good for your health, cycling also reduces carbon emissions and decreases traffic congestion and consequently there are many initiatives across the globe to encourage cycling. 

These initiatives often fall into a larger idea often referred to as sustainable cities or people-friendly cities, which essentially is a concept to rethink our cities to make them more sustainable, more green, more inclusive and more accessible. Mobility is a key element with some cities opting for car-free areas, others beefing up public transport systems, and others converting to a biking culture.

On our green map, we have the ability to indicate cycling routes, bicycle sites and bicycle parking. The icons fall under the 'Mobility' category of 'Sustainable Living'. It’s important to note that also within this category are icons for pedestrian friendly areas, bus rapid transport and public transport systems – which are all important from an overall sustainability perspective.

Talk of sustainable city infrastructure, green transport and health benefits comes to nought though if you take a look at current attitudes in Joburg (indeed, South Africa) towards the use of our roads. The overriding feeling is that our roads solely exist for cars and taxis – most of which all break the rules of the road. But let’s be clear: our roads exist for all forms of transport: pedestrians, runners, cyclists, motorbike and scooter-riders, taxis, busses, even the guy on a skateboard. In a sustainable city, we include infrastructure or designated areas for each type of transport to create better flow of traffic and to mitigate against the potential of injury.

The fact that there are currently no forms of infrastructure to support the multiple uses of our roads does unfortunately encourage this flawed idea, and it will take time to upgrade our city to a place where it will be safe to walk and cycle on our roads. We are starting though - there are plans afoot to build an initial 50km of dedicated cycling lanes in the south of Johannesburg, linking up to the Metro rail and Reya Vaya bus network – all with the aim of encouraging bicycle use.

That said, the road-safety issue is a big one for the cycling community in particular – and it has unfortunately been brought sharply into the spotlight this week due to the tragic loss of Olympic Mountain Biker, Burry Stander, who was tragically killed while training on the roads of Kwa-Zulu Natal yesterday.  This will no doubt add fuel to the proverbial fire about who has the ‘right’ to be on the road.

Regardless if we are motorists, cyclists or pedestrians, we all need to adjust our attitudes to our roads – to see them as public space for ALL to use. As with all sustainable principles, it’s about using our resources, be they natural or man-made, with responsibility and respect.


The team at Joburg Green Map would like to extend their sincere condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Burry Stander.


A memorial bike ride has been set up by the organisers of Critical Mass Joburg to pay tribute to Burry and all the cyclists that have been killed on our roads. It’s taking place tonight (Friday, 4 Jan), riding from the Dunkeld Centre up Jan Smuts to Mandela Bridge and back again. Cyclists are encouraged to wear white to show unity. More information here:


Image of bicycle via stock.xchng. Cycling icons © Green Map System, Inc. 2012.

Icons © Green Map System, Inc. 2012. All rights reserved. Green Map® is a registered trademark and used with permission.