The City of Cape Town has deployed 10 law enforcement officers on motorcycles to patrol the cycle lane from the city centre, to the MyCiTi station in Table View, which passes through Woodstock.
The situation is so bad, some cyclists say that they would rather risk driving in the traffic than through the “particularly bad” stretch of lane in Woodstock.
The officers have been deployed to the cycle lane between the CBD and Table View, starting from the R27 through Otto du Plessis Drive, through the Paarden Eiland red route till the Culemborg bridge in the city centre.
The deployment is part of the Transport Enforcement Unit contingent to address safety hot spots along non-motorised transport routes, and will also patrol the 13 MyCiTi stations along the route.
According to a City, the officers will work two shifts a day – from 5.30am to 9.30pm. Some are deployed in vehicles and others patrol the cycle lane on motorcycles.
The officers use two-way radios linked to the control room, the camera response unit, and the vehicle operating centre and they can also communicate with each other.
The mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, said officers were stationed at the Melkbosstrand and Bonteheuwel law enforcement offices.
“Two motorcycles and the lock-up van start operating on the R27, while other vehicles start at the Civic Centre station. Two officers on bicycles patrol the red route at the Paarden Eiland area from about 8.30am.”
He said the route was very popular among cyclists and the officers’ duties included cyclists – in particular those who prefer to cycle alone or have to use the lane after hours.
“About 100 cyclists use this route between 5.45am and 8.30am to the Cape Town city centre and about the same number between 4pm and 7.30pm. One or two cyclists use the lane during off-peak times.
“Before the deployment of the officers, some members of the public complained about being targeted by opportunistic criminals along certain sections of the route, in particular in those areas which are deserted after hours. I am happy to say that we have seen an increase in the number of cyclists using the cycle lane since the officers have started patrolling,” said Mr Herron.
However, Robert Vogel, from the Pedal Power Association disagrees. While he welcomes the patrols, he believes there is a bigger problem that needs to be addressed.
“Vagrants live in the area near to the cycle lane, and there are criminals and people living on the rail reserve and along the highway reserve. We’ve been told that they do conduct operations there but the problem persists.”
He said the number of cyclists who used to use the cycle route had dropped because of safety issues.
“Most cyclists now stay on the freeway into the city to avoid going into the area through Woodstock where the problem is particularly bad.
“Cyclists no longer continue on the cycle lane through Paarden Eiland when they come from Marine Drive – they use the grass verge and then ride into oncoming traffic and continue on the way to the city to avoid that area.”
He said the fact that crime had decreased did not necessarily mean it would be completely eradicated.
Spokesman for Cape Town Central police, Captain Ezra October, said the problematic areas seemed to be along the route near the railway line where vagrants and criminals lived.
“A lot of these muggings happen before the cyclists reach the CBD, especially on the strip in Woodstock, where it is deserted, and where the police are battling with a drug and crime hot spot known as Mascani.”
He welcomed the City’s initiative to patrol the cycle route.
Mr Herron said the City’s cycling strategy aimed to increase the percentage of commuter trips made by bicycle from the current 1% to 8% by 2030. “We have committed substantial resources over the past eight years in pursuing the vision of a cycling-friendly city.
“Currently cyclists have access to at least 450km of cycle lanes across the city, some of which are separate from the road. “Although some of these lanes are popular for recreational cycling, we want to see substantial growth in commuter cycling which is required to have a noticeable impact on traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, and to improve mobility in the lower-income areas,” said Mr Herron.
He said some of the strategies identified in the City’s cycling strategy include:
Improving access to bicycles for lower-income communities.
Improving road safety and personal security along cycling routes.
Making the planning, design and provision of cycling lanes location-specific – what works in one area does not necessarily apply in another.
Maintaining cycling infrastructure such as cycle lanes, bicycle parking facilities, and storage facilities.
“The deployment of the officers along this cycle route will assist us in growing the number of commuter cyclists. In so doing, we are also improving the safety of cyclists and MyCiTi commuters,” said Mr Herron.
Leonie Mervis, the founder of Bicycle Cape Town, said this was a great initiative by the City of Cape Town to support the growth of cycling and protect everyday cyclists using this route.
“It will certainly lead to an increase in people commuting by bike between Table View and the CBD.
“The more people who use this route, the safer it will become. Plus getting more people onto bikes and out of cars will help reduce congestion on the roads.”
She said the infrastructure on the route was fantastic with smooth traffic-free cycle ways that make it a pleasure to cycle.
“As the only connector route between the northern suburbs and the city centre it is critical that it remains crime free and safe to cycle.
“In the past this has not been the case. We look forward to seeing things shift with this new