Skateboarder WANDILE MSOMI has been bitten by the cycling bug – so much so that he now cycles to work in Joburg. He tells us about how a skateboarder came to embrace the bicycle as his primary mode of transport.
I have been cycling regularly for two years now. The energy that it takes to ride my bike every day excites me. There are many reasons why I started commuting everywhere with my bicycle: the first was my girlfriend, who has been riding longer than I have.
Another reason is that a car is stressful and I hate driving. There are also the corrupt traffic officers and the fines and the ridiculous charges on your car service. I really can’t believe that I used a car for so long.
There is so many disadvantages to driving: the sound of grinding gears, the energy people exchange driving (you know what I’m talking about), the accidents, the breakdowns – it’s not healthy for one’s mental and physical being. I was also a professional skateboarder for so long and keeping the mind and body moving has always been a priority. So cycling was the next logical step.
Some of my family and friends hate the fact that I cycle. My parents in particular have stopped complaining, but I hate that to see them, I have to drive to them, which makes them feel better. So unfortunately I don’t see them as much as I would like.
I love cycling in the CBD – it is amazing! The lines, the angles, the human traffic, the way people just cross the road without looking, the way taxi drivers compliment or insult you. It’s like surfing through people – like a long wave of people.
As much as I love cycling, I enjoy commuting in the mornings because I have to deal with drivers that are late for work. I also see people who hate bicycles on the road and they express it by throwing funny energy at you.
Sometimes you’ll see other bicycle commuters and they don’t wave or say “Hi”, especially the roadies and mountain-bike humans. I guess when cycling some people like to mind their own business and I have to learn to respect that. But I do think a friendly greeting can make a day better for everyone.
Every day is an adventure as I sit on my bike moving my neck about like an owl. Cycling has been beneficial to me: I am stronger physically, and my skateboarding feels a lot better these days. Since I started going on group rides I have met some of the most amazing humans.
Johannesburg is a tough city to ride in and it can be dangerous at times. I have been hit by a car already: we were on our way to Soweto, and this dude just ran into the back of me and a friend. For five days after this incident I did not ride my bike at night. But I have earned my stripes and I feel more confident on my bike as a commuter.
Johannesburg is so huge and that’s why I like it … I mean, when you get to other towns in South Africa, I have people telling me that we are not going to cycle 40km for a commute because it’s too far. But in Johannesburg it’s easy to do that, running from one meeting to another, shopping for the right foods, going out with friends, getting to work.
But Johannesburg has a lot of work to do to make this city friendly for bicycles. I really would love better lanes and they are coming. I have heard that the city is going to spend R250-million in two years on cycle lanes. I wonder if they are going to allow skateboards?
A version of this story appeared on the Johannesburg Urban Cyclist Association site. Additional reporting by Pontsho Pilane.
This story has been translated into isiZulu. Read the Zulu version here.
– Featured image supplied by the Johannesburg Urban Cyclist Association