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Monday Jul 06, 2015

Cape Town cycling lanes 'a failure'

Motorists and road users are showing contempt for Cape Town's recently installed cycling lanes - painted green in colour - with some using it as kerbside parking and minibus taxis making it a zone to off-load and pick up passengers.

Motorists park their cars in a lane meant to be used by cyclists in Albert Road, Woodstock.

A Cape Argus team conducted its own inspection of the painted lanes on Friday and found very little space for cyclists to use, with motorists hogging the lanes.

The green cycling lanes in the CBD and areas like Salt River were created to make the streets safer for the city's riders. However, two years after the first street was striped with the luminous shade, cyclists report that the lanes have become a dangerous home to speeding taxi drivers, construction vehicles and delivery vans.

"There was a lot of hope that these would be useful to us," said Jared Chaitowitz.

Chaitowitz, who owns bike rental company Up Cycles, had been one of many who lauded the pilot project as a step in the right direction when it was announced in 2013. The skid-resistant, colour-coded lanes were aimed at helping to promote safety and awareness for vehicles and pedestrians.

From the outset, however, the clearly marked lanes along Bree Street in the CBD and later Albert Road were overrun by motorists.

"Taxis are using them as an overtaking lane," says Chaitowitz.

"There are cars parked all over them, it's a mess."

Chaitowitz said while the behaviour said more about the attitudes of motorists, the city had a responsibility to ensure riders were safe. Otherwise, the green lanes should be considered a failure.

Pedal Power Association chairman Steve Hayward said there had been numerous complaints about the new lanes and they were considered "danger zones" for cyclists.

"People are not going to risk their lives out there... You have a car parked in the lane and the cyclist has to veer into traffic; it's just dangerous."

Hayward said the major issue was that very little was being done to police the lanes.

"If drivers were fined on an ongoing basis for driving along the lane they would think twice about it. Take action against the vehicles," he said.

Brett Herron, the City of Cape Town's mayoral committee member for Transport, said he was aware of the issues along the green cycling lanes. He urged road users to work with the city and obey the rules of the road, warning they could be fined by traffic officials for driving along the cycle path.

"Motorists must appreciate that public roads are shared spaces and that cyclists are legitimate road users," he said.

"If we are not able to secure the co-operation of motorists through appeals and fines, we will have to look into towing offending vehicles away as we do when vehicles park in dedicated public transport lanes." Herron said that the situation was, however, improving. During weekly site visits it was noted that fewer drivers were parking in the lanes.

He asked riders to report misuse and illegal parking so that law enforcement could take action against offending drivers.

In 2013, when the green cycle lanes were introduced, Herron said that painting cycle lanes "proved to be an effective move overseas".

In parts of New Zealand and some states in the US, green or red cycling lanes have become a common sight.

"We have had quite a good response from cyclists on Twitter," he said at the time.

"From our own observations, we have seen far more cars avoiding the lane."

A year later, on the same issue, Herron said: "It is only with community buy-in that Cape Town can truly assert itself as a bicyclefriendly environment, and consequently reap the benefits that the wide-scale uptake of this transport option will offer."

Cape Argus


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