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Cycling the way to commute – UN expert

“Stellenbosch has the potential to make utility cycling a natural way of commuting, both for locals and for tourists. There is no real barrier, besides the political will, that hinders the town to shift from a car centred to a people centred city, to which the rest of the country can look up to.”

This is the view of Esteban Velez Vega, a Colombian cycling expert, doing research in Stellenbosch for the Japanese International Co-operation Agency (Jica) and the United Nations University in Tokyo and the University of Tokyo.

The purpose of his research for the Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability of the United Nations (UN) University in Tokyo is to identify commuter preferences and to assess the plausible impact of a dockless bicycle sharing system in Stellenbosch.

Esteban has the following to say about cycling in Stellenbosch, after being taken on various tours through town by Stellenbosch Fietsry, who co-operates fully with the project:

“Commuting by bicycle in town has been a pleasant experience; the weather, topography, scenery and friendliness of the people are things that most towns and cities in the world would envy.

“The heavy traffic, short distances, existing NMT (non-motorised transport) infrastructure, cycling facilities and very well paved roads in the CBD have shown me that cycling is the fastest and most convenient mode of transportation for most commutes.

“Stellenbosch definitely has its own traffic flow, and even though many could argue that building more infrastructure is the first step to take, I believe that giving access to bicycles (and e-bikes) and communicating utility cycling as a trendy (healthy, sustainable and intelligent) option, could increase cycling levels in town and foster a bicycle centred city, where bicycles are the norm and drivers will just feel foolish when sitting in their car watching other people just like them, thriving on a bicycle.

“Two identified challenges for the municipality to achieve higher levels of utility cycling within the CBD are to enforce its traffic regulations and to focus their efforts onto multimodal transportation, such as park and ride for people travelling from towns nearby.

“Sooner or later this beautiful town, full of intelligent and successful people, will collectively realise that shifting onto NMT is not only one of the most efficient climate change mitigation strategies, but also the best way to achieve healthier and enjoyable lifestyles.”

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