No Swimming, Only Cyclingby Sean O'Toole / 08.06.2011
I think I voted for the wrong party. Maybe that’s why the front wheel of my bicycle broke. A quick recap. Some of us stood in a queue a week or two back, waiting to cross or tick the appropriate box for Juju, Godzilla or, just for kicks, the Abolition of Income Tax and Usury Party.
I didn’t see any posters for AITUP on my daily cycle rides leading up to the municipal election. They have a website. Here is AITUP’s statement on feminism: “females are in general more loyal and harder workers than their male counterparts with fewer problems about sex, sports and the use of alcohol”. The party with a Bothasig postal box supports equal pay; it also wants to outlaw secret societies and has a party statement on “poetry and money”.
Maybe it’s because I didn’t vote for AITUP that that my bicycle broke. “Are you okay?” someone shouted from a coffee shop as I picked myself up from Kloof Street. The blood dripping from my right cheek was a surprising red. “Shame,” they all said as I wheeled the broken bike up Koof Street. The shame required four stitches. (For the anoraks: a radial spoke pattern on my front wheel, a configuration not warranted by hub manufacturers, caused the spokes to sheer out the hub.)
It could have been worse. Still, I was glum. The accident happened three days before the annual 100 Miler mountain bike race in Malmesbury. Cycling is a compulsion. Face stitched and plastered, shoulder aching, I spent race day cycling the new 16km asphalt cycling lane that connects Cape Town to Tableview.
It’s a smooth ride, gentle on gammy shoulders. It’s quiet too, eerily so. Whoever coined the phrase “post-industrial” clearly hasn’t left their leafy university campus. The factories on the north-eastern outskirts of Cape Town are resolutely Blakian. “Dark Satanic mills,” the English mystic poet wrote. Except that most of them are white. And one, it has an unintentional sculpture display on its roof, smells of fresh-baked bread.
The Cape Town that most cyclists know and love threads through a Scottish alpine wilderness known as Tokai, or hugs a yellow line that leads out along Victoria Road to Chappies. The air is brisk. There are no signs reading, “Polluted water / No swimming”. Don’t be dissuaded. Try the new cycle lane, alone or with a friend. If you fall and wound your pride, there is always the BRT, which glides up and down the clay red lanes to empty stations with routine discipline. The buses are designed to accommodate bicycles. You won’t have to walk home.
*All images © Sean O’Toole.