Spokesmen Cycling Podcast
Segregation of South African Cyclists, Then and Now — With Njogu Morgan
Monday 17th February 2020
SPONSOR: Jenson USA
HOST: Carlton Reid
GUEST: Njogu Morgan, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.
The Politics of Cycling Infrastructure, edited by Peter Cox and Till Koglin, Policy Press
Cycling Cities: Johannesburg Experience by Njogu Morgan
Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 239 of the spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was published on Monday the 17th of February 2020.
David Bernstein 0:24
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Jenson USA, where you’ll always find a great selection of products at amazing prices with unparalleled customer service. For more information, just go to Jensonusa.com/thespokesmen. Hey everybody, it’s David from the Fredcast cycling podcast at www.theFredcast.com. I’m one of the hosts and producers of the spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast. For show notes, links and all sorts of other information please visit our website at www.the-spokesmen.com. And now, here are the spokesmen.
Carlton Reid 1:09
Hi there I’m Carlton Reid. On today’s show I’ve got an interview with South African academic Njogu Morgan — we talk about modern day bicycle activism as well as how, in the 1930s, the apartheid system used traffic separation to roll out a form of motorist v cyclist segregation, a loaded term then and now. Njogu — I’m I’m presuming that I’m talking to you. But I’m in Newcastle in England, but I’m presuming that you are in Johannesburg.
Njogu Morgan 1:47
Yeah, Yes, that’s correct. I mean, the campus of Witwatersrand University at the moment,
Carlton Reid 1:54
and what I’ve previously spoken to in the flesh when we’ve actually met at conferences. It’s Been at places like Velo-City, hasn’t it? So tell me about your your trajectory through this. What How did you get into cycling academia to begin with?
Njogu Morgan 2:12
That’s a good question because I think it relates to the article we’re going to talk about, I guess first started on this trajectory initially and being having a history of trying to make cycling work in Johannesburg. We’re trying to make Johannesburg slightly more cycling friendly than it is at the moment. Being very frustrated with that. And having all sorts of questions about why the process was not unfolding as one might want, you know, as a very passionate activist. In order to cut a long story short way I ended up in working on a PhD and someone suggested to me that ma one two in terms of the question was thinking about to locate them empirically in an area that I had some sort of interest in about cycling. So that’s kind of how I ended up here.
Carlton Reid 3:11
And then, what kind of years are we talking? So when, because I went, by the way, I met you and haven’t met you in Johannesburg as well, as well as conferences. That must have been about three years ago. I met you in South Africa.
Njogu Morgan 3:26
Yeah, I think that sounds about right. It’s probably around 2017 2016. there abouts. Not sure exactly. But yeah, I mean, I, I started working on my PhD in 2014. And, but had been involved in, you know, in a small way, in some cycling activism in Johannesburg from let’s say, 2011 2012. So there abouts.
Carlton Reid 3:50
Yeah. So I was in South Africa to give a talk on I think at that time, there must have been bike boom. And that’s where you you very helpful. came in and helped out. Now in South Africa, I’m Cycling is is is contested all around the world, of course, but in South Africa, what differences do you have as an activist, compared to say, the activists that you talk about, as you talked to in other countries? So are there race elements to cycling? Is cycling, very much seen as a white man’s thing to do? What what what kind of barriers do you do you face that other people in other countries don’t face?
Well, again, a good question. But General, I’m not sure I can answer it for the whole planet. In terms of what barriers and the context space that we don’t, but I think, yeah, it’s a multi multiple sort of different ways of answering that question. So in terms of the race question, I suppose one way to answer it is I think it’s useful to, you know, think about what form of cycling we’re talking about. And so leisure to sport cycling does have, you know, one might observe, you know, the predominantly white males sport. And but I think in more recently it’s become, you know, it’s divisive diversifying. So you finding people from all sorts of backgrounds and getting involved, I guess, like globally, where it’s become, you know, healthy from one sport, but obviously, socially, economically, that we’re talking about sort of middle class participation. And, yeah, and then in terms of commuter cycling, which is where I focus my research on historically, you know, serving the colonial particularly in the apartheid era and more recently It’s been mainly male watching class cycling practice. And then so that, you know, their perception is that one cycles or to work or wherever they might go, because, you know, perhaps they cannot afford any other way of getting about, you know, they have been here in which they’re, they’re located. And so the the challenges are multiple and emanating from that. Yeah, I guess one of the most significant one is just a historical legacy of the colonial apartheid city that I think there’s been an attempt to reconfigure it, but obviously that will take time. And of course, you were talking about, you know, the very sprawled cities where people would live very far from where they work. So in terms of travelling from A to B, relying only on bicycles it becomes you know, it’s a severe challenge for people often their instances We’re trying to mix modes of transport into the bike train combo or the bike bus. But not really progressive. Yeah, so But in general, that’s where I would start in response to your question.
Carlton Reid 7:12
So I know this is outside your period. So your your period of study is the 1930s. But before that, going back to say the 1890s was the cycling very similar to America and Britain, were cycling prior to the, you know, the bicycle boom of 1896 was very much an elitist, very white. And I’m presuming very few blacks would have been owned bicycles at that time. So what what happened to bicycling in Africa after say, 1900?
Njogu Morgan 7:57
Again, very good question. I didn’t Conflict for the minute, there’s a book coming out, which tells the history of cycling and Johannesburg and that book that’s come out actually in print. But that book goes as far back as the late 19th century, which is a period you’re talking about. But you’re quite right. I mean, what you see in Johannesburg and one can generate, you know, can extrapolate for other urban context and the country. It is exactly as you put it, initially, bicycles are expensive. And, you know, they’ve been imported from European context from North America. And they’ve, you know, like elsewhere, as you say, in the late 19th century that this exciting new machine on the streets Yeah, so from a class and racial perspective than it is mainly the kind of colonial white population that is able to get around on bikes and to some extent, they are late 19th century Early 20th century, a few black workers who can get on a bike, perhaps they do so because A, they’re in the employ of a small business or where they’ve been given the bicycle to, you know, to run errands. And in the same way, perhaps they’re working for, you know, in a domestic space and they’ve been given one to do so. And in fact, one of the early controversies that the book talks about is about 1904 1905. There’s this kind of anxiety about how, you know, people of colour, many black men are riding bicycles in the streets of Johannesburg. And these anxieties are being expressed by sort of the colonial elites, some kind of feeling that the way in which they’re riding maybe it’s a bit dangerous for me, to be honest with population and maybe, you know, going back to this question of affordability perhaps the writing on stolen bikes. There’s a bike theft problem that’s unfolding. And so these are, you know, this pressure put on the municipality to try and regulate and do something about this problem of people of colour on bicycles. And it’s a bit of a long story, but it’s sort of an illustration of, as he put it, you know, there’s this kind of movement, late 19th century, early 20th century, where already the use of bicycles is being racialized and getting enrolled in can really social politics of Johannesburg.
Carlton Reid 10:33
So in the UK, and in America, there was a bit of a crossover period where the middle class elites who were cycling in the 1890s some of them you know, not not many of them, but some of them did carry on cycling so you’ve got like the the CTC types who would then you know, they were motorists as well, but they carried on leisure cycling in South Africa. Was it more a case of the white elites just dropped cycling I could stone and because it’s very visual, obviously a black face a white face, that cycling became very quickly something that, that that’s a black person’s form of transport. And even the people who were like, you know, very fond of psych and the whites were very fond of cycling. Absolutely dropped it because it was well, I’m not black. I can’t be seen on that tool of black transportation.
Njogu Morgan 11:33
Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, I don’t even know why population drops the bicycles immediately like a stone. And but I think as you put it, but I think there’s definitely This is in, you know, over a number of years, this is what happens. You do find this controversy. We’re talking about it and unfolding in 1904 1905. There’s some historical evidence still in the 1910s Through this century leader still getting on their bikes to go, you know, to their leisure clubs, you know to have some cigars and whiskey hands on. But yeah, this is true later on, but their 1930s for sure. At which points, you know, Johannesburg is in the greater region in which Johannesburg is situated. This is gold boom, that happens. So the mines are doing really well. And this allows, particularly white population, that the income rises dramatically. And this is a key moment in which even then, let’s say the middle class, lower middle class is able to afford a car. And at this point, I think this is where I might agree with you. That kind of switch really happens in a significant way by the server World War Two era and it’s very rare to see why person on a bicycle. It’s mainly black males who were were commuting. And of course, you know, Johannesburg has other modes of transport their trans available, and their buses. And this, you know, so these are the options that are that are that are available in the city. But yeah, in general terms, I think you do see this transformation from a racial perspective. And I do think it happens perhaps much earlier in terms of the social elite moving away from from bicycles.
Carlton Reid 13:33
So we’re now coming into the 1930s. And we can start to talk about the chapter of this book that that you’ve written, and I’ll talk about the book in a second. But before we get into that, I would just because I’ve got this top of mind and I know we will be exploring this later on, but I just like to kind of mention there to get your your your opinion. So the vehicular cyclists, some of them have used And this is like American and British vehicular cyclists have said that the kind of the Dutch style cycle tracks which they so hate are like bicycle Bantu stands. In other words, they are you know zones of shame that’s where you go and and you’re corralled off so where the weather bicycle tracks that we’re going to be talking about here from from your paper where they very much seen as almost rolling apartheid you know that these are you’ve got to be penned in these are not tracks built for the safety of these black riders. These are tracks for Get out of my way tracks.
Njogu Morgan 14:49
Yeah. I find it difficult to you know, agree with less like less position. But I think this is what you beginning to see or that this is the history gravitons shows, you know happens in in Johannesburg and actually in in a new, at least one other small town, but 4050 kilometres away from Johannesburg. And we’re the cycle, the work but the cycle track or the cycle lanes are doing is precisely as you put it, it’s really to get the cyclists off the road to clear the road so that the motor cars can move quickly and efficiently.
Carlton Reid 15:29
So this is an extension. So would you say it’s an extension of apartheid? This is like just a white line manifestation of apartheid.
Njogu Morgan 15:40
Yeah, this is sort of the story that the book or the chapter tries to tell. I, you know, it’s sort of to go back to your earlier question about how I find myself in this project. I want to in the course of my PhD work, when I discovered that, you know, this particular road Lumo to have any You had a psycho track, I was amazed and blown away because I had not come across anything yet to suggest that at least, there was this kind of footprint of cycling in Johannesburg in this way. And so I really wanted to follow this story and understand why does this thing appear on the streets of Johannesburg, and of course it does not exist now. What happened to it? So I think the broad purpose of the chapter is really to try to understand why this cycle track appears and eventually why it disappears.
Carlton Reid 16:36
Before we get onto that before we get onto the the actual book and delve into that, that Louie Botha Avenue in greater depth, I mentioned Benji stand there. It’s a loaded term clearly. Could you just define what a banty Stan is?
Njogu Morgan 17:00
So, a bunch of time under apartheid South Africa was a special region often for situated far away from you know, the town centres that was allocated for people of colour to live in. So, traditionally, so, this would be spaces in which, so, under project is this notion that, that there could be this sort of idea of CO existing in the same space in terms of the country and but there would be the country would be allocated especially in terms of different racial groups. So, in general, in the urban areas, there would be, there would be the, you know, the centres of the cities would be like sort of the White City and then around the periphery. And it would be to have township areas, which are allocated for the quote unquote non white population. So the bad bunch of sons fit into this and they’re usually located in a rural areas and but then in the cities, you’d have what are called townships allocated for, you know, again, quote unquote non white people.
Carlton Reid 18:16
So this is a form of segregation
Njogu Morgan 18:21
Yes, absolutely simply that’s spatial segregation by this kind of racial construct. Now
Carlton Reid 18:27
in cycle advocacy terms people people do like to, to separate out bicycles and, and motorists, and they often use the word segregation, you know, segregated cycle tracks, in from your point of view where segregation is clearly a much more loaded term, is that a term you avoid is that a term that does have more meaning for you
Njogu Morgan 18:59
Yeah, I think, you know, obviously working in when working on South African cycling history or talking about cycling in South Africa, I really do avoid the term segregation. Because Yeah, it has a particular meaning that most people here don’t want to engage with. Or, you know, it’s just brings up an uncomfortable past. That’s, I think the country is trying to move forward from
Carlton Reid 19:23
and doesn’t have modern resonance. So you literally have got to avoid it. Avoid people think of this as well. Yeah, that’s where we’re segregating off cyclists, and that’s a bad thing.
Njogu Morgan 19:38
And I think,
yeah, I think it’s really more in terms of sort of evoking you know, the danger of evoking this kind of very difficult past that the country has unfolded, always has gone through, excuse me. So, in, I suppose in policy discussions, I’m talking about myself really, there may try and use it Their terms. So but I think, you know, I don’t want to generalise for you know, for other people, I think the tendency is to talk about, you know, to avoid that term.
Carlton Reid 20:12
So separated, it’s fine segregated is verboten.
Njogu Morgan 20:18
Yeah, I would agree there I think, separated psycho tracks, or, you know, it’s better than saying segregated life, because you’re getting it, he walks that past, but it’s also past that continues very much in the present. Because I think as I mentioned early on, even though there’s been and continues to be attempts to, you know, really reconfigure, for instance, the city form, it’s still the case that you still have this kind of spatial segregation or spatial separation. Listen to me using that word. Still in kind of racial terms.
Carlton Reid 20:54
Yeah. Right. So So now, we can get on to the actual book. So the is I’m going to I’m going to read this out this is the politics of cycling infrastructure, the subhead is spaces and well it’s it’s inequality but with the in, in brackets, and it’s edited by the academics, Peter Cox and Till Coglin, and I was very happy when I got notification of this book to see there was a chapter by you and in fact, you’re the second paper in there and I have read two papers in there one is actually by cat Tia which has got a discussion of cycling in Newcastle where I live which was which was nice to be able to read but then of course this your chapter and it’s Louis Botha Avenue Where did just describe that that the the actual physical characters is that like that’s a long road what’s what’s what is that road actually like in history as well as today.
Njogu Morgan 22:01
Ah, right. Yeah, so Louis Botha Avenue in history was one of the main major links between Johannesburg and the then capital of the area called it Transvaal Pretoria. So it doesn’t mean that the mobility corridor between the two towns. So this is before you’ve been to Johannesburg, so you have a sense of what the town looks like. So, this is before the highways are constructed before many other activities come. So if you are travelling between the two towns and other urban agglomerations in the area, then you would use it and so initially it’s like elsewhere, Todd road full of rocks and so on. But essentially what happens over time is
through the development of Johannesburg.
There are urban suburban developments that emerged alongside Louis Both Avenue. So if you, you know, travelling in the end between Johannesburg and Pretoria, then increasingly over time, you begin to see Long live, what Avenue on either sides is sort of suburban formations that emerge. Yeah, so for for many, many decades for many years, it remains sort of the major transportation corridor between the two towns, but also if you’re, and this is sort of going back to our earlier conversation in terms of this segregation, segregation question. So if you’re travelling from the city centre and northwards in general, when colonialism and apartheid you know, during that era, this would have been you’ve been moving through a white space through a white city. More recently, sort of jumping forward trickling time, obviously the you know, the been other roads that have come into place. So it’s not such an important mobility Korea. You’re from a north to south perspective. And but it’s still quite an interesting road currently. It’s one of the, in the in the post apartheid era, it’s one of the roads where up bus rapid transit system has been has been constructed upon. Its not yet finished two bricks in the middle of the road very much like you’d see in Latin American cities. This this special application for bus rapid transit system. Three x still continues to have a degree of importance in the mobility corridor as a mobility corridor.
Carlton Reid 24:36
So looking at your paper, this particular cycle lane it wasn’t a cycle track with with curb separation or anything it was a cycle lane basically paint, but it was opened on 21st of August 1935. And in previous conversations with you and you’ve you very kindly sent me newspaper cuttings. This was very much inspired by the London cycle track that opened the year previously in say June 1934, which in its turn was inspired by Dutch cycle tracks. But this particular Johannesburg cycle track cycle lane was inspired by the London example. Yes.
Njogu Morgan 25:22
Yes, absolutely. So this is, you know, a period of time in which they did policymakers or the town planners and others in the municipality of Johannesburg, very much an active conversation with with the UK. So they monitoring developments elsewhere. They are going on study trips, as we might talk about nowadays. Yeah, so they’re very, they’re very connected to, let’s say, this British Empire through trying to learn from each other in terms of how you solve These kinds of questions. And I think that’s probably where this example arises from.
Carlton Reid 26:03
Yeah. But they didn’t do a very good job. joga they basically looked at what was done and then use paint instead of a curb. So already from this from the start, it wasn’t very good. What Why do you think it wasn’t very good?
Njogu Morgan 26:21
yeah, you’re right. It wasn’t very good. It was a simple painted line on the road. In one of the pictures, I think we were that you’re talking about, there’s carefully written I think cycle way on it. So it was not very wide. I think it was about 2040 inches inches wide. And then it’s not clear that it actually travelled all along Louis Botha Avenue from the city centre to and I guess we’ll get we’ll get to this to one of the main residential areas where there’s a lot of basketball traffic emanating from and but yes, no, quickly, I think it’s not and I guess we’ll explore Listen, the cost of conversation. But it seems to be initially a quick solution. There’s a moment of severe pressure and demand on this corridor, where, as we mentioned in the 1930s, this this gold boom, and the white population is certainly very well, they can afford cars and so on. And so there’s this hectic competition for road space. And I think at that point, representatives from the city of Johannesburg, the municipality, then are looking for a quick solution to resolve this ongoing road conflict. So it’s, let’s put something down on the road can especially allocate a space for all the different rodeos so you can have a cycle, the cyclists on one side, and then you know, the cars are obviously using the majority of the space. So this is kind of the initial quick solution that appears with much fanfare in 1935.
Carlton Reid 27:56
Have you found any contemporary sources from the users of this this particular cycle lane that talked about how this was an immediate degradation of what they were previously riding on, or is it all this just is just newspaper stuff Have you got any diaries from people any any contemporary stuff
Njogu Morgan 28:19
yeah again very good questions I for that paper I mainly relied on archives to to study so I have not yet spoken to you know, contemporary people about it. But I am in the process of four separate research project in as different towns doing that where the, as he put it there been interviewing very old people who remember cycling to work in a small town where they did put on some psycho tracks. And James
Carlton Reid 28:54
genuine, genuine, sorry, genuine cycle tracks as in with curbs.
Njogu Morgan 29:00
Yeah, yeah, genuine cycle tracks very different from what happens in Johannesburg, which is just a simple painted line. In fact, one of the psycho tracks because there were a few these was designed such that when you’re exiting your residential area, in this instance, again, it was one of these, you know, segregated suburbs for the black population. As soon as you got onto the cycle track, and there was a fence, probably about bicycle high that would then prevent you from exiting the cycle track. So it was a gated cycle track. There’s no way you could if you wanted to write on the road. Wow, this is one instance. That’s that’s
Carlton Reid 29:42
been potentially two ways there. Wow. Oh, that sounds so safe. That’s fantastic. But also, Wow, that is absolutely. I’m gonna use a loaded term here. That’s absolutely segregation. It was a fence.
Njogu Morgan 30:00
a fence. So yeah, as you Yeah, I mean, I suppose from a safety perspective, I mean, there’s no way that a motor car could then unless they wanted to damage, you know, the driver wanted to damage their car could then drive onto that psycho track. So it is safe from that perspective. But at the same time, it’s really restricting the mobility options of of people who are then in the cycle track, which is fenced off.
Carlton Reid 30:25
So how long? Sorry. So how long did that particular fenced off? cycle track last? And how long did the one on Louie Botha Avenue last?
Njogu Morgan 30:39
Yeah, so the research on the fence of one is still ongoing, so I’ll be able to answer you, you know, for profit by the movie. But the Lewy Body one lasts, really through the 60s. And by the 1970s. It sort of becomes this. Some people will remember it You know, once a long time ago, they used to be a cycle track on Railroad Avenue. But at this point, it is really kind of faded away. Now the municipality is not no longer, you know, going taking good, you know, every few years having to repaint it. Yeah.
Carlton Reid 31:16
So, they literally where for a few years, they were repainting?
Njogu Morgan 31:24
Yeah. So the records that I’ve found, which are, you know, the chief truck traffic Officer of Johannesburg in the 1930s 1940s, complaining that, you know, every so often he has to repaint this cycle lane. And he has to do so because, you know, the paint wears off. And one of the major reasons that the paint is right, is because motorists are treating it as an additional lane. So even though there’s this kind of idea that this is idea that the cyclists should, you know, should you use it and the motorists Stay on their section. You, you know, this is evidence of motorists, you know drive on it and it wears away very quickly.
Carlton Reid 32:07
And I’m just reading your paper here. And one point it says the 14 cycle track that the cab died will contain the two wheeled Horde. And that’s again, that’s kind of a loaded term, but it’s also very similar to terms that the white working class were getting in the UK at this time. So the elites in their cars were very much pushing cyclists to that 40 inch. They wanted them to stay away from their fast motor cars.
Njogu Morgan 32:44
Yes, absolutely. And I wish I would have been able to find much more like historical footage just to see what the everyday practices on the road would have been. So one has to rely on pictures and a sense of imagination. But I guess you know, something else. What I think is also going on is I do believe that, you know, so there’s this kind of newspaper narratives that you discover of white motorists complaining, as you say about this two wheel Horde. That does not always stick to the cycle lane that has been allocated to them, you know, partially because it’s not wide enough, partially because there may be a car to parked in front of them. But I really think and I’m convinced of this, that another another dynamic that’s unfolding here is this kind of a micro protest that is unfolding. So this idea that 234 cyclists are riding a breasts and preventing motorists from overtaking them. I do think that there was a sense of Okay, I suppose, like nowadays we may speak of the notion of reclaiming the lane, you know, the critical mass movement, as you know, put forward that idea, I really do think that in That kind of woman’s there’s also a micro protest unfolding on Woodward Avenue.
Carlton Reid 34:06
And how many, how many black motorists were there in the 1930s?
Njogu Morgan 34:15
Very, very, very few. And this doesn’t really change much until the post apartheid moment. I there’s a number that I came across in you know, so, they record keeping and archiving is very good. So, during through the Colombian apartheid era, you know, everything was seen through this kind of ratio constructs. So, even the record keeping of who, for instance, who owns motorcars would be would be kept according to race. And so you can you can look at these kind of records and, and they tell you, how many people own bicycles and how many people own motorcars and also through gender and sorry, through race times and I think in the 1960s Just take this as an indicator. So it’s not a complete exact number because I have to pull it up. And I think that across all Africa across the Union of South Africa, I think they would have been one or 2% of the cars that were on the streets were owned by people of colour, but again, I can look it up to you. So the 1930s, very small fraction of the black population can own motor cars.
Carlton Reid 35:28
So that that protest you’re talking about is kind of a way of asserting some sort of right to the to the land, in effect, by riding along because it’s clearly seen in racial terms, if most 99% bad sound to it, and or 90% of motorists are clearly going to be white, and the same kind of percentage the other way around. The cyclists are going to be black.
Njogu Morgan 36:01
Yes, absolutely. And again, in the historical record, I guess, at this time, people are very shy to use very nasty language to refer to each other. So you’ll find in the white press, you know, white motorists complaining and using a very ugly language to refer to the black cyclists who are travelling on wakeboarder Avenue. So there’s definitely a very kind of racialized term. Transportation becomes very racialized from very early on. And so I think this kind of, I think the chapter it really is an illustration of the kind of broader dynamics that unfold in Johannesburg, where the roots pace really becomes to be seen as a white space. We’ve spoken about this kind of notion of a spatial segregation but also within cities the road purely because it’s mainly the white population that can afford cars and roads really big begin to be understood in this trance. So there’s kind of this broader social struggle. There’s an unfolding in Intel, Africa also and falls in microtones. On on the on the road.
Carlton Reid 37:17
And I’m going to make a bold guess here that white motorists in their fast muscular cars were pretty aggressive to black riders using their motor vehicles.
Njogu Morgan 37:34
Oh boy, yes. And of course this is not. Again, you were speaking in general terms. So this isn’t. We’re not attributing this kind of conduct to every single white motorist or white person who happens to be driving. But yeah, in very general terms, this is what happens and in fact, the Nobel Prize winner scholar His name is keeping my head at the moment. I could see him. Hello, Chris. Yeah, he’s won a Nobel Prize for his literature on racial African dynamics has written about how, in his experience being in South Africa in the 19, so he’s white South African, emigrated, but growing up and living in South Africa, he he’s written very famously, or infamously. But in the 1950s, it was almost a bit of a sport for white people to threatened to run off, you know, black cyclist off the road. So this is not just Johannesburg. It’s really across the whole of across the country. In this other small town that we’ve been speaking about that I’m continue to do this research. In fact, there’s one very nasty incident that happens in the 1950s that’s reported on in the newspapers where two or three cyclists are killed by young white motorists. So the story goes, this white motorists are you know, they’re sort of travelling somewhere. And they happen upon this, you know, black workers and bicycles and the, the newspaper reports that they stop. And they threw rocks at them in other and I think they do hit them and eventually two or three of them but two out of three die. So an ambulance comes and you know, takes this black cyclist to hospital but they don’t survive. So I mean the story is written about and the mayor of a small town at the time, and I get involved in this discussion because this kind of controversy that’s unfolding in springs, but he refers to this, you know, young white boys a first of them as heroes and for doing this. It’s bizarre to me. But I guess you know, that’s kind of the context of the time. So as you say, there’s kind of aggression that between different racial groups is also unfolding on the on the streets on the roads. And so white motorists yes and being differently being very aggressive
Carlton Reid 40:22
and then fast forward to post apartheid era where there are now many black motorist is the same thing happening a black motorists. Happy to do what those white motorists were doing for them. Are they happy to to bully people off off the roads because now the black motorists are the ones with the powerful vehicles.
Njogu Morgan 40:51
Last year again for a few moments, right? connection is excellent. But other than that, to see again, so fast forward to
Carlton Reid 40:59
fast forward to today. Post apartheid South Africa where now black motorists are on the road in great numbers. Are they then becoming the road bullies of a previous era so it maybe it wasn’t the the the apartheid concept that was making white motorists so aggressive. It was the car. So black people are now getting aggressive.
Njogu Morgan 41:25
Oh, boy. Yes. Again, you’ve been to Johannesburg, you’ve been to South Africa. So there’s definitely a sense in which this kind of road culture that has been produced and manufactured in this kind of colonial apartheid era persists, persist, because this is what you know motorists or future motorists have grown observing. Now, if you get into a car, then it means the road spaces, viewer space. So the way in which you conduct yourself you should conduct yourself in a way that It shows that you own or you belong in the space in this space. So there’s definitely that sort of historical continuity and this aggressive practice practices that continue, which still continues to be a source of shock for me. To this day, I mean, the road regulations, you know, went through the national government are very clear in terms of what the road conduct to the expected road conduct. So what is the appropriate conduct when it comes to if pedestrians have right away, they have a green light and the Road Rules there? That’s, you know, obviously the motorists should stop and wait for the pedestrian to cross. But it’s often the case that this will not happen. Instead, the motorists will be wanting to drive even though they’re supposed to not be. So yeah. as you put it, I mean, I think there’s this kind of continuing historical practices where they were road has become this kind of space where people really want Want to express and display their sense of dignity? I believe in addition to this kind of observed practices,
Carlton Reid 43:10
yeah. So in, in the in America and in the UK that the car was, was portrayed as this liberating thing that you know, the freedom vehicle. But in a South African context, it does sound as though it was that but much, much more, because you would suddenly no longer be an underclass if you are behind the wheel of a car.
Njogu Morgan 43:39
Yeah, no, absolutely. And in fact, you’re stealing the words out of our forthcoming book chapter. And that talks more explicitly about this. Yeah, I think in the post parented moment differently, where you’ve sort of had this long history where it’s very clear that kind of individually dignity is often connected through owning a car. I think in a post apartheid moment, I think those kinds of feelings and really exaggerated or much more pronounced in the population. So the idea that you can you know, own and drive across machine preferably a very expensive one, I think has much more power in in this context perhaps than elsewhere.
Carlton Reid 44:28
I’m also thinking here of so I’ve written in Stellenbosch and I’ve been showing the Have you have you written in Stellenbosch on the on the separate
Njogu Morgan 44:37
I haven’t visited
Carlton Reid 44:40
Okay, so there’s the on some of the major roads there is now some there’s one where there’s one particular Dutch style roundabout that is in fact it’s a incredibly good it’s it’s totally separated. It’s absolutely modelled on Dutch roundabout so protected on Every arm. And yet when you ride on this infrastructure, which Stellenbosch is clearly a kind of a white middle class, I might be paraphrasing a little bit too much, or extrapolating too much, but it’s kind of a white middle class area. When you ride on this infrastructure as a white, middle class cyclist in the Netherlands, you would expect the motorists to stop for you, because all of the signs telling them we’ve got to stop. But here on this particular infrastructure, you’re taking your life into your own hands, expecting the motorists to stop because know if you’re behind the wheel of a car, it doesn’t matter if there’s a cyclists on a protective roundabout, you’re going to carry on going through at speed and that’s a white motorist or a black motorist. So there is that culture of of road bullying, that’s incredibly strong and no amount of it seems Infrastructure might actually combat that.
Njogu Morgan 46:06
Yeah, I agree with you. I mean, I think the, the road culture is very, very aggressive. I mean, just to tell you a small anecdote, I was in Chicago visiting family. And my sister stopped to let a pedestrian go through because they had a green light there were you know, she was going to turn. And I was joking to her, what are you doing? for god sakes, you should just drive through and you know, it’s You’re right, because that’s what people do in Johannesburg. So you’re right, I think it will take something else to really transform this culture.
Infrastructure may help. Maybe it will need to be
maybe of the sort that we spoke about early on in the small town, you know, that really governs that maybe really, infrastructure could play a role here. Potentially, if Maybe if it separates people in space and time or different role users, but as, but I think something else needs to happen to, you know, to reconfigure and to transform this kind of everyday practices. So
Carlton Reid 47:15
where are we right now in South Africa in terms of bicycle friendliness? And and that maybe the government actually getting behind this Where? Where do you see it now? Where do you see it in, say 10 years time?
Njogu Morgan 47:36
Yeah, I think currently, perhaps I should just speak specifically about Johannesburg because I have a better sense. I mean, I think the national picture is a bit uneven. There are some towns and cities that are trying we’re trying to do something about promoting, you know, other forms of mobility, whether it’s trains, buses, walking, cycling, and so on. And very specifically in terms of Johannesburg, I think the policy agenda is it’s not where it used to be. When you compare it to a few years ago, I think they kind of, I suppose this test sustained interest not only for cycling, but elephants mobility to reconfigure that has, has gone away slightly. But I guess from a global perspective, I mean, this is common, because we haven’t mentioned this, but there was a, let’s say, four or five year period in which the city of Johannesburg under a different mayor was really pushing the cycling agenda, and putting in a lot of infrastructure, the policies and regulations in place, and there’s this moment of momentum, which was at the time that I was supposed to when I was being an activist, and that this kind of energy seems to have gone away the man Who was a very strong cycling proponent is no longer mayor. And there was a new administration that’s come in place, and there’s a different Mayor that’s come. So you don’t look at policy. momentum. I think things are very quiet. But I do think that, if any, I suppose if experiences elsewhere are any indication, I think this is a moment this is a blip. And I think this agenda will return and I think it will return because the sort of questions of mobility that the previous administration and non state actors were trying to grapple with continue to be present. So issues of traffic congestion issues of people not being very healthy in because of how they move the questions of air pollution. And these are not problems that have gone away. So in one way or another, I think there will be a new entity or a new sort of actors will have to come and grapple with them.
Carlton Reid 50:09
Njogu, hank you very much. I think we’ll, we’ll end it there. We kind of we started in modern psycho advocacy, and we kind of ended in modern cycle advocacy in South Africa. So thank you very much for your time. Thanks to Njogu Morgan there. The book we were talking about, and which contains his paper, is The Politics of Cycling Infrastructure, published January 2020, and edited by Peter Cox and Till Koglin and available for £60 from Bristol University’s Policy Press. There’s a link to that book, and to JoeGoo’s other work, on the show notes which can be found at www.the-spokesmen.com Thanks for tuning in to the Spokesmen Cycling Podcast, make sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts (other podcast catchers are also available).
The next show, supported by Jenson USA, will be out at the very beginning of March …
Carlton Reid 51:17
meanwhile get out there and ride!