From 3-6 July, I had the great luck of presenting a chapter written with Gail Jennings and Ezra Goldman that examines the last decade of investment in non-motorised transport in Cape Town at the South African Transport Conference at the CSIR conference centre in Pretoria.
The time spent in Pretoria was interesting on a number of fronts. Firstly, I secured an excellent Airbnb rental right in the heart of the city, in Sunnyside, immediately adjacent to Burgerspark. The neighbourhood had certainly changed greatly since it was first built up as high-rise flatlands in the 1970s; it was young, black and busy, with heavy pedestrian and motor traffic early and late.
Before I headed out to the conference, which involved taking the Gautrain to Hatfield station, and then a Gautrain bus to the CSIR conference centre, I was able to walk the streets with full confidence, with my laptop case and, on the day I was presenting, a suit bag and all my luggage.
I was struck by the quality of the pedestrian infrastructure in the city centre, as well as the prevalence of cycling infrastructure along main arterial roads.
The conference itself was my first encounter with the South African transport fraternity as a group. There were very few women, which was interesting to me – in policy and the research literature, and in survey after survey, women are always shown to have very complex and distinctive movement patterns; these people mostly weren’t in the room.
The NMT workshop, presented by Gail Jennings and Sean Cooke of the UNEP Share the Road programme, was an entirely inspiring day. Comprehensive, short and punchy presentations. Most striking of all, to me, was Njogu Morgan, (@) because while I had an idea of Gail and Sean’s work, the idea that a PhD candidate was preparing a sustained reflection on the sociology of cycling in Johannesburg was electrifying news.
Njogu’s presentation was rich in discoveries, most particularly in the area of the raced body in motion – why did black men’s ability to move freely at the urban scale through the power of the bicycle, constitute such a challenge to the developing race and mobility discourse of Johannesburg in the 1950s? Well, we know why, by instinct, but Njogu has data and detail.
My return to Cape Town was by Gautrain; I was again struck by the quality of the service, and by the striking and novel image of higher-income South Africans expertly navigating a train system and its bus feeder service. Another data point to be integrated into the hard versus soft infrastructure debate.
With the greatest thanks, once again, to Gail for bringing me in on the chapter; it has been absorbing and compelling work.