By Ramatamo wa Matamong – Alex Pioneer*
DURBAN, Dec 4 – (TerraViva) The 900 yellow bicycles at the U.N. climate conference in Durban, South Africa, may not be getting heavily used now – but that will change when they reach their permanent homes sometime in the new year.
The bicycles will be donated to rural schoolchildren who have to travel more than six kilometres to school, says a South African Department of Transport official; 100 children in each province will receive a new bike.
“This is part of Shova Kalula (Easy Ride) campaign that has been operating for the past five years under our Non-Motorised Transport programme, in partnership with the Department of Education,” said Mankitseng Molokwane, head of external communications for the transport department.
More than 70,000 bicycles have already been given to rural schools by the programme.
“Our land transport is one of the biggest culprits in greenhouse gas emissions,” says Molokwane,” that’s why as the department we encourage the use of non-motorised transport such as bicycles and donkey carts as a mitigating factor to the environment. The fewer cars on the road, the better.
“ For the duration of the climate conference, the bicycles will be available to participants to use for short trips around the conference venues and the city. This not only reduces pollution, it helps ease congestion on the roads.
Minho Batek of South Korea was one of the delegates lining up to borrow a bicycle. He said it’s better to take a bike than a taxi. “Because this is walking distance, zero emissions and a bit of exercise”.
Sabelo Mpisane, Siyanda Mazubane, Vukile Lengisi and Sihle Khambule from Enjabulo senior primary school at Amahlongwa were also there testing the bicycles. “I also know how to ride a bicycle,” said a giggling Sabelo.
* Community media coverage of COP 17 is being supported by the Media Development & Diversity Agency of South Africa, which is promoting the participation of local journalists through a programme of training and reporting on climate change.