About twelve years ago our eldest daughter and her husband left South Africa for County Cork in the Republic of Ireland. After spending six years there, and adding two new members to their family circle, they finally emigrated to Australia and settled in Perth. The timing of their second move could not have been better for me. At that time I had just started cycling and they had moved to a city with simply amazing cycling facilities.
When I cycle in Pietermaritzburg, and I am going uphill, I will often cycle on the pavement. I do so because it is simply much safer than the side of the road given the manner in which South Africans are allowed to drive. When cycling in Perth, one seldom has to go uphill. The traffic is also generally very considerate of cyclist. Despite that, I also end up cycling on the pavements in Perth. The difference is that the pavements have been designed and marked to accomodate both pedestrians and cyclists. In addition, where the roads are wide enough, they also contain designated cycling lanes.
Ultimately the difference between the "cycling facilities" in the two cities is so huge, that it does not make sense to try and compare them. I like to think that the two photographs contained in the header of this blog sums it up completely. Ironically, when it comes to the actual cycling experience, I guess I would go with Pietermaritzburg. Perth is mostly flat, and so unless you are cycling along the banks of the Swan or Canning rivers, it is mostly featureless. The hills behind Perth do offer some variety, but ultimately I do not think that it compares with cycling in Pietermaritzburg and KwaZulu-Natal in general.
Perhaps that explains why, despite the lack of support from the City and State for cycling in Pietermaritzburg, it is still rapidly becoming the cycling mecca of South Africa.
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