My name is Lebogang Mokwena. I am the first Bicycle Mayor in Africa. I want to break down racial and social barriers and open up opportunities for all. I’ll be helping to educate more people in disadvantaged communities to learn how to cycle; to help improve their prospects for education and employment, and boost their general happiness. Through creating inclusive recreational and commuter cycling communities one bicycle lesson at a time.
Since 2015, I have been involved in bicycle education initiatives. First in New York City and now in Cape Town mainly teaching adults how to cycle. In 2016 I experimented with establishing my own programme with a few of my friends based on the success of that experiment. I launched Learn2Cycle in Cape Town in 2017 where I have been teaching adults, mainly women, how to ride bicycles on most Saturdays ever since.
How would you describe your mission?
To diversify Cape Town’s cycling community by supporting more women of colour to learn how to ride bicycles and do so with confidence and safely for commuting and recreational purposes.
What the obstacles and challenges you are facing in your city?
For me, the greatest challenge with implementing my Learn2Cycle programme is geographical. I have a great bicycle and programme sponsor (Pedal Power Association), but I am currently only able to offer classes in suburban areas where the more privileged learners are. I would like to expand my programme to more areas, especially those that tend to be underserved, where affordable and multi-modal transportation options are most needed.
What are your next steps now that you are the Bicycle Mayor?
The next step is to take my programme to areas that lie further away from the city economic centre and hub, starting with a school on the outskirts of the City of Cape Town. I’d also like to experiment with offering a few Learn2Cycle classes at local municipal clinics for people who have chronic lifestyle diseases that can be managed with increased exercise.
What can other cities learn from your city?
Bicycle advocacy, especially infrastructure-oriented advocacy, can only be successful if people are riding and are therefore more likely to use whatever cycling infrastructure is installed. Thinking carefully about who cycles and who doesn’t (starting with who does not have the skill of riding a bicycle) and closing the gap between these two groups (especially where gendered, ethnic, and class disparities in riding cultures are glaring), is the starting point to ensuring inclusive cycling futures. Implementing an inclusive cycling culture among adults and parents not only means these adults benefit from learning a new skill, but they then model this spirit of life-long-learning to their kids and bestow to the next generation the gift and joy of cycling regularly, and for all occasions.