Wheels come off cycle lane project

City workers started removing the cycle lanes in Albert Road, Woodstock.

Has the City of Cape Town finally conceded defeat over its costly cycling lane project? That was the question some were asking after workmen were seen removing the lanes in Woodstock’s Albert Road.

Not according to Brett Herron, the mayoral committee member transport and urban development, who says the lanes were removed without “proper authorisation” or consultation and he wants the matter investigated.

The lanes drew flak for being a waste of money when they were introduced in 2015 because many motorists simply ignored them and parked there, while taxi drivers viewed them as their own personal express way to dodge congestion. Businesses in the area complained that the lanes had removed parking for their customers.

The City’s transport authority has already spent R300 million on non-motorised transport (NMT) projects such as cycle lanes and pavements, but critics have argued that the money should have been used to address more pressing socio-economic problems.

Mowbray cyclist Morné Adams travels to work in the city centre daily using the lanes. He said they were more “dangerous than anything else” because problems with them had gone unresolved.

“Some of the taxi drivers used this as an opportunity. The lanes are clearly demarcated and during peak-hour traffic, you would have traffic breathing down your neck, hooting and urging you to get off the road. I don’t think these lanes were properly thought through. It’s actually very discouraging to see them being removed now,” Mr Adams said.

Other riders, he said, had questioned the City’s decision to remove the lanes, claiming it was “one big money wasting operation”.

“Money was spent, roads were closed and there was a significant amount of time and effort put into these lanes. So it does not work, what happens to all the money, time and effort now? Just another great example of how this City works for you,” he said.

Another Woodstock cyclist, Emily Dumont, said there had been too little communication between the City and cyclists about the lanes.

“The practicality of these lanes has to be questioned, because of the road culture in the country,” she said. “Many failed to understand that the lanes were strictly for cyclists and nobody else.”

She criticised the City for removing the lanes saying it might signal their intention to revive the whole scheme “building on the failures” and spend more money on a “project that has clearly failed”.

Pedal Power Association CEO, Robert Vogel, said they had learnt some time ago of plans to remove the outgoing Albert Road cycle lane, as businesses there were unhappy about losing parking space. He said the City had decided to remove the lane following a meeting with the business owners in February.

“The City said they were undertaking a project review and it seems that during this review period, the cycle lane would be removed, as per the demands made by local business owners,” he said, accusing the City of favouring motor vehicles over bicycles.

“Utility cycling should be encouraged as much as possible, and by removing a cycle lane the City is doing the opposite,” Mr Vogel said.

He said a narrower cycle lane would replace the current one to create more parking space.

“But, will a narrower cycle lane make cycling along Albert Road safer?”

Mr Herron wants an investigation into the removal of the lanes, saying there had been “breach of proper process”.

“I have asked for an investigation to ascertain why these changes have been/ are being implemented without prior consultation with me and interested and affected parties and without proper authorisation,” Mr Herron said.

He said that following complaints from cyclists, residents and businesses, he had asked the administration in the latter part of last year to investigate alternative options, but those alternatives, he said, “were not presented to me or to the local community via a public consultation process”.