The bicycle is a catalyst for nature conservation

The bicycle is a tool for nature conservation

Russell Gal



Every time I see an adult on a bicycle I no longer despair for the future of the human race.

– H.G. Wells

Fast, efficient and individualistic, the bicycle is no ordinary mode of transport. It’s a church, a gym, a community creator, a cash printer, a protest placard, a dopamine generator, a mechanical expression of self-determination, an icon of hope. It is touchable, attainable freedom.

It is also a tool for nature conservation and one that the City of Cape Town—indeed, any city—stands to benefit from.

My father is a boisterous character, half-man half-bicycle. Last month, he cracked two ribs after tumbling over his handlebars. I profited from his misfortune by taking his place in the world’s largest individually-timed cycle race, the Cape Argus. Egged on by minstrel bands and reels of cheering supporters, some donning fancy dress, I joined over 30,000 competitors to pedal 110 km around the breath-taking Cape Peninsula. The race is a magnificent celebration of sport, healthy living, unity and nature. It physically exposes and connects people to the region’s awe-inspiring natural beauty. The organizers are well aware of this, having furnished all finishing medals with images of iconic local species and the words, “Our Natural Heritage”.

The experience left me wondering whether bicycles could meaningfully contribute to nature conservation in a broader sense. The answer appears to be multifarious.

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