A group of students and staff has been working with planning teams to make Wits more bicycle-friendly – not only to improve the critical parking problems, but to lessen traffic congestion and fuel pollution too.
Called Cycle Wits, the initiative was founded by Nicky Falkhof, a senior media lecturer. She and a group of friends, mostly international students and staff, were concerned about the major parking and transport problems at Wits. They hope to encourage Witsies to cycle to campus.
“Everyone in Europe cycles to work and class,” said Falkhof. Not enough people made use of this mode of transport, she said. And there was no provision for those who did cycle. Campus accessibility, safe bike parking and bike routes that did not interfere with cars or pedestrians were non-existent.
The group have already met with the senior executive team in charge of planning and construction management at Wits. They also met with consultants from the City of Johannesburg and Urban designers to come up with a way of incorporating safe bicycle routes, bike racks and safe parking on campus.
Falkhof explained that safe parking for bicycles was of great importance as she and her fellow staff cyclists were currently forced to keep their bicycles in their offices during the day.
“The outcome from the meeting was a positive one as everyone seems to be on board with the idea,” said Falkhof. In the meantime, the Wits Security Manager has made provision for cyclists to use the side gates at entrances.
The group aims to create a cycling culture that starts with “Cycle Fridays”. “The more people are seen with bicycles on campus, the more the idea will become normalised.”
She said the group had created cycling route maps. These routes should create safe areas to cycle, and to interact with cyclists who follow the same route. This should make the commute fun and build camaraderie.
If the initiative grows, the group plans to help students buy bicycles and helmets, in order to “change the transport culture within the university and Joburg as a whole”, said Falkhof.
To get involved go to Cycle Wits on Facebook or visit their blog at www.cyclewits.co.za.
Next week Wits Vuvuzela will be riding a trail with one of the cyclists using a GoPro, a sports camera, which attaches to a cycle helmet.