#229 Nostalgic Futures about Non-Motorised Transport

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At the Day 1 C40 sitting with the City of Tshwane, a lot came to mind, and much was discussed. There are a few things worth noting before going deeper. The fear of technology, first, and some nostalgic experiences that underly bits of truth, and semblances zero-round the session today. 

An appetite for fear?

In fear of technology. It stirs the spirit to see that the new digital age is missed. Floating under the radar are digital identities, increased focus on privacy and network currencies embedded with behavioural inputs. There is a greater chance that bike-sharing and walking, for instance, could be an incentivised in a manner that reduces health, car insurance and other driving related premiums. 

Taken even further, embedded technologies that enhance the quality of life of local communities through high accessibility and safer roadways to reinforce the need for real estate development that concentrates human settlements. Before sharing more on this, here are some experiential notes that rim my scull open.  

Where the ride began-there

Tshwane, or Pitori: I remember the city. Some days it was the walk through Arcadia that captivated my eyes with purple flowers drenching the sidewalks, wet from yesterday’s rain. Other days, it is an early morning through the city centre, walking up hill to then Bosman Station. Curving past the Meyl’s ticket house and crossing the iron bridge overlooking an ocean of old and new trainsets, and much of Pretoria under the Voortrekker Monument, now part of Freedom Park. 

Slavokop has never been so different, so contrasted. On one hand new developments stretch past the StatSA building with a metallic finish, on the other it is the railroad houses—probably remnants of the South African Rail Commuter Corporation’s housing scheme (who knows?). They haven’t changed up to Joupie Fourie, and the TransLux depot, funnelling anyone in this direction toward the pedestrian bridge. It would turn with me as child with my backpack after school, until I would stare at the cars snapped by the speed trap still present today. Later, and older, the bridge was a bit of hiking spot, and I became familiar with crossing at the traffic lights down below: thank goodness for the islands. 

The city-teacher

The city taught me to walk, by force, just to save enough money for popcorn at Sterland, so walking was ideal. From the bus stops near the Home Affairs building at Church Square taking me home, I eventually took the high school adage of hanging near Pretoria News offices to chat up before catching the last bus. Uniforms flaunted in all colours—buses tagged the school name and a route number: double decker’s for the peak, and single decker’s for the residual late comers. 

Paying attention to the route taught many of us how to get to Hatfield from town—it was a stretch, but the Menlyn taxis near the Reserve Bank did the trick. Before heading there, to catch one a good walk around Sammy Marks Square, toward the State Theatre and the market court would take me even further back. It’s the magical days of cyphers and school children clustered in the city—safe, “chilled” and collected—enthusiastic about the urbanscape. 

Eyelines eventually levelled over time, and when the taxi ride took to the townships, sidewalks would gradually fade as fast as the tall buildings. The opposite direction toward Sunnyside, would offer a different light to the pedestrian life. But my bicycle was the township ride, truly transformed the way I felt about home. 

Township tide

It’s the narrow rimmed roadbike that truly defined initial experiences. We would edge the curving double-lane, bi-directional tarmac as Ventures would venture in search of passengers past, near and ahead of us. The main road from Papiki, in Ga-Rankuwa toward Zone 6. Literally on edge. 

The only coping mechanism we had passed this complex interchange of vehicles coming from all directions—really—was Beeches gum, red-watermelon explosive flavour. I was talking with Kirsten from OpenStreets about it later after the event. What a ride that was. 

No one was impatient because there was a commitment to ride through-and-through, everyone had a point to prove. But the paddling didn’t feel competitive to me, but it brought me closer to gripping the rubber bands, and long for a blue mountain bike with a “FEEL THE BURN” scarred into it. Road bikes suck horns! 

By the time I did get one, it was my daily ride to work, and life—as discussed with Sindile in the JTP episode 7. How cool. This time in Mahikeng, cutting the highway, through bushvelt, over some rail tracks and onto the drive leading to campus. It was an exciting time—no excuse but to paddle, keep it rugged and no fancy shirts. For special events, a metered taxi would suffice. Oh yes, I forgot, there were no bikelanes, sidewalks or anything really for the routes I’ve kissed. It would be really great to get a feel for that one day, but until then: who cares? 

The infrastructure will have to follow the footprints and tyres marking the square– but maybe, just maybe it is time to think without the box. 

Thank you for reading.

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