Bicycle Portaits, South Africa

Back in beautiful Cape Town, I’m immediately struck by how few bikes are on the roads here. Having cycled in this city for a long time, I know why. It’s too dangerous, there is no infrastructure, and no critical mass of cyclists to lobby for real road reform. This is typical of third world cities, and it is something that needs to be remedied if there are to be real world-wide alternatives to the culture of fossil fuel.

But the lack of urban cycists doesn’t mean that the bicycle has no place here. On the contrary, as in all things, South Africans are remarkably resourceful and innovative in their adoption of bicycle technology.
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This photo shows Tanki Mohapeloa in his home-made trailer, which he uses to transport goods near the Lesotho border. It was taken by Stan Engelbrecht, a Cape Town photographer and bicycle enthusiast. Together with Nic Grobler, he recently completed a project on South African bicycle culture. The three-volume book Bicycle Portraits was inspired by the perveived lack of a cyclist commuter culture in South Africa. The entire project was shot from their bicycles while traveling around the country. It uncovers a remarkable culture of both mainstream and alternative cycling throughout the cities and rural areas of South Africa.

Tanki Mohapeloa stated: ‘It’s because of this bicycle that I am able to make money, so if you are going to give me more, I want it. I am a Mosotho and I hustle with this wagon. There are no jobs so I have made this my job. I take tourist’s luggage inside the wagon and it helps me to make a living. I can carry a cement bag in this. In this I carry every single thing. The people come and ask me to carry their cargo to certain destinations and then give me money. Anything that a car carries, I can carry with this as well. I can carry a bed with this… from Lesotho to South Africa. When I work hard, of course I sweat a lot, it is hard work. It’s not an easy thing to do…’


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