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​Thousands of cyclists turn up for Freedom Ride

Freedom Ride, one of the biggest highlights of Cycle Jozi Week, is growing in leaps and bounds.

This year’s race attracted an estimated 7 500 cycling enthusiasts – about 1 500 more than the number of riders who took part in last year’s edition. Sandton was turned into a kaleidoscope of colours as cyclists of all shapes and cycling ability swarmed the Gautrain Station for the start of the 27km fun race.

Straddled in their equally colourful bicycles, tricycles and electric bikes, the cyclists put a smile on the face of Johannesburg Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau as he was about to lead his team in the race from Sandton and back via Alexandra Township, Parktown and Rosebank.

Mayor Tau, a keen cyclist himself, has been leading the charge to promote cycling and walking among residents as viable alternatives to motorised transport to help reduce the city’s carbon footprint. It was also a fitting way to mark the end of Cycle Jozi Week.

After greeting and thanking the throngs of riders for coming, the Mayor – clad in his City of Johannesburg white, gold and black colours – led the cyclists in one of the City’s exciting races.

However, a sore knee forced him to quit the race on his way back from Alexandra. But he was happy to see so many Johannesburg residents taking part in the race.

“The success of this Freedom Ride reflects the growing enthusiasm for cycling among Joburg residents and it bodes well for the Eco-Mobility World Festival in Sandton in October,” he said.

Member of the Mayoral Committee for Transport Councillor Christine Walters said she was happy that all the hard work was paying off.

“People came out in huge numbers to participate and to support the cyclists. What is beautiful is that now the City, business, the cycling community and activists are all working together. Cycling is increasingly becoming a way of life. Non-motorised transport is the future. It will also help us address the carnage on our roads.”

She said already 60km of dedicated cycling lanes had been built in and around Johannesburg.Muhammed Suleman, organiser of Jozi Cycle Week, also participated.

“It was a perfect day to cycle through the City and the experience of riding through Alexandra was phenomenal. The community came out to cheer us on. All the riders in our group were overwhelmed by the community’s support and a powerful feeling of community spirit. Cycling in Joburg is safe and accessible to all,” he said.

Dali Tambo, who rode with his wife Rachel and their son, said the Freedom Ride was an excellent advertisement for road safety. “This is about the freedom we fought for,” he said.

Gao Meraba, an avid cyclist from the South of Johannesburg, hoped the public awareness would improve. “I hope cycling will be safer. We would love to cycle everyday but taxis are a problem.”

Margie and Peter Moodie, an elderly couple from Randburg, finished the race after two-and-half hours later but were happy they had taken part. “Hopefully, we will be ready for the 94.7 Cycle Challenge later this year,” she said. “We want to see more people ditch their cars for bicycles. Awareness comes slowly but sometimes taxi drivers are aware of cyclists than motorists,” Peter said.