The new lane dedicated to cyclists on Jorrisen Street in Braamfontein, has been launched with minimal regulation and enforcement causing some confusion among road users.
The introduction of the lane has led to a number of problems for drivers, including traffic congestion. The demarcation of the lane as a cycle-only space means that there are now only two lanes for drivers (instead of the previous three) and if you want to go into Wits University, the University Corner parking lot or turn left onto Bertha Road, you will be stopping traffic as you wait to turn safely.
There are no signs along the lane as yet and people are using it as a pedestrian lane, which puts them at risk of being hit by cars that ignore the cycles-only rule at various times.
The cycle lanes are part of a network that will link Melville, the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Wits and the Johannesburg CDB, according to Gail Jennings, a transportation researcher.
“It will be easier to see the value and function once the full route has been built,” she said. “The network was designed in consultation with the universities and various residents associations … and [was] extensively mapped.”
According to Jennings there is currently no proper by-law in place to ensure the lane is exclusive to cyclists. The regulations of such a by-law would ensure that cars do not drive or park in a zone demarcated for bicycles, buses or pedestrians exclusively.
The lane runs along the left-hand side of Jorrisen Street and is painted in green to distinguish it from the regular, driving lanes.
Jennings said that while cyclists would probably have preferred a segregated bike lane, these are difficult to create in such a dense city centre environment, where there are lots of pedestrians.
However, according to Thomas Coggin, a lecturer in Property Law at Wits University, the City should have made more of an effort to separate them from the rest of the road. The City of Johannesburg was not available for comment.
As a member of the Urban Joburg team, Coggin has done extensive research on urban spaces and the law.
“I think the City should firstly have ensured the lanes are essentially elevated above the roadway, aside from simply delineating the lane with a separate colour,” he said. “ In this way, there would have been a physical barrier to drivers illegally using the lane.”
“It will be critical that the City fines drivers illegally using the lane so that, in time to come, we can inculcate a culture of respect for non-motorised transport in the city,” Coggin said.
He believes that the concept is a positive change. “Joburgers need to move away from their usage of one-occupant motor vehicles, and learn how to walk, cycle and use public transport,” he said.
Wits University is lending its support to the initiative, “as part of promoting non-motorised transport alternatives in our city, in addition to ongoing investment in improving public transport options,” according to Emmanuel Prinsloo, director of campus planning and development.