From sugar taxes to bicycle lanes to shanks's pony: what next?
Trust the ancien régime at the Johannesburg City Council. Just as "Uber" taxis and driverless cars promise the greatest revolution in motorised transport since the advent of the motor car itself, it budgeted to spend R250 million on bicycle lanes.
According to the executive director of transport for the city, nine sets of bicycle lanes were being installed as part of the city's plans to "return to the future - walking". Privately owned vehicles "are a definite no-no". She complained that people drove instead of walked to the corner shop. People who went to the gym even parked their cars as close to the entrance as possible, "giving themselves very little time and space to walk". Ag shame.
This is precisely the Big Sister mentality that is also bringing us the sugar tax, which will supposedly trim 3.8% of your average male. No doubt some "scientist" will soon discover that a wheat tax will cut off another x%, a potato tax y%, and a salt tax z%.
Big Brother in the form of Parks Tau, when he was still mayor, waxed lyrical about "pedalling to a greener future". Office workers in Rosebank would swap their car keys for helmets. Young professionals from Diepkloof "would invest in sleek two-wheelers and modern gear". Mothers from Eldorado Park would pedal their way to the shops. Children from Lenasia and Bedfordview would cycle to school every morning. "Cycling" would be made a "cool activity". Johannesburg would "grow a movement of eco-mobility champions". Naturally, in line with Mr Tau's wasteful pretensions we had a costly "eco-mobility world festival" a year ago in Sandton to match.
They took a year to build a "bicycle lane" joining the University of Johannesburg to Wits to Doornfontein. Even before some of it collapsed, nobody was using it except motorists to park their cars or taxis to overtake on the left. Build a cycle lane and the cyclists will ride in was the assumption - just like the assumption behind those white-elephant airports in India that are still waiting for aeroplanes and passengers.