Make People-Friendly, Bike-Friendly Cities, Say South African Photographers (Photos)

© Bicycle Portraits

Two South African photographers, Stan Engelbrecht and Nic Grobler two years ago set out to document why there are so few bicycle commuters in their country. They've traveled over 6,000 kilometers in South Africa on their bikes to show who was using bikes and why.

Tanki Mohapeloa, for example, pictured above, makes his living from his bike and grocery-basket trailer near the Lesotho-South Africa border.

"It’s because of this bicycle that I am able to make money," he says at the Bicycle Portraits site. "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."

© Bicycle Portraits
Yoliswa Fipaza

Engelbrecht and Grobler found a number of subcultures of cycling. Turning hundreds of their photos into a three-part book series was the next phase of their adventure, and they've succeed with two Kickstarter campaigns for books I and II.

Now it's the final day of their third and last Kickstarter effort, for Bicycle Portraits book III.

Instead of taking photos of cyclists who ride for pure fun or exercise, Engerbrecht and Grobler concentrated on people using bikes as serious transporation tools. They noticed that in spite of South Africa's inadequate public transport infrastructure, very few people ride their bikes, and cities continue to develop with cars and car travel in mind.

© Bicycle Portraits

Arnold Van Zyl, photographed in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, is a daily cycle commuter, though it isn't the norm in his town.

"I cycle from here everyday to work, and I cycle all over Stellenbosch - because it is quicker, I see much more and I encounter interesting people. It’s not really ideological, it’s basically because I really enjoy cycling - I like getting out there and I like seeing things. The bike comes from Belgium where I used to live for the last eight years, I brought it back from there. But it is in fact a German bicycle, made in east Germany."

Englebrecht and Grobler have a longer-term goal beyond publishing the books - they want to give back to the many cyclists they photographed.

"We want to be able to assist the underprivileged cycling community through our project - be it teaching bicycle maintenance skills, providing necessities like helmets, tires, tubes, locks… It would be great to create a support structure for the people who appear in the book - this could be a trust funded by a percentage from sales of the cover price, or a charity set up in the name of the people who appear in the book etc. Ultimately we want to promote cycling as a means of independent transport to empower the underprivileged, and in fact, to encourage everyone capable to ride a bike as an alternative to driving a car, or even using public transport. We hope that this will lead to the kind of infrastructure development that is designed with all people in mind, not just cars."

© Bicycle Portrait
Dibuseng Janki with her mother, Majanki Janki

December 7 is the last day to help fund this effort at Kickstarter.

Tags: Bike Accessories | Bike-Friendly World | Bikes | Biking

Best of TreeHugger