Committing to the bike in Cape Town

For someone who tries to steer away from operating in an aura of linguistic aloofness to justify and present my design methods, I have to confess I have found a profoundly complex description, which I will be using regularly.

Doxastic commitment: a class of beliefs that go beyond talk and to which we are committed enough to take personal risks.

It is this commitment that converts objection into protest and opinions into advocacy. Its usage appears to be as rare as its application in practice.  A comment made to me recently, “It is great to have an activist here,” is a reflection that policy is being guided by bureaucratic dogma rather than an understanding of life on the street. People who care because they risk what it is to know are in the minority.

I was offered this as a secondhand encouragement after a recent heated forum discussion on cycling and Non-Motorized infrastructure. Translation: “Wow, you actually ride your bicycle on the road?”

Yes. I do.

It is precisely this methodology of doxastic commitment that has endeared me to the life and words of Nelson Mandela. The legacy he has left the design community (of which I am a part) is one that calls forth authenticity and commitment to action. The personal risk of saying no to high paying clients and environmental destruction. The personal risk of saying yes to pro-bono work and defending an unpopular opinion. And, critically, the personal risk of being proven to be wrong either by allowing personal conviction or one’s peers to do so.

Adding cycling advocacy to my job description has proven in some ways to be a doxastic commitment (I used it again!). It’s a heated debate regarding one of the most contested of spaces: mobility. The intensity of this debate is fueled by the realization that we have very limited choice when it comes to movement routes. And to share those routes, it is wrongly assumed, means that our decisions will then be further constrained.

The first major cycling advocacy project I am working on is confronting every obstacle and preconceived idea I’m likely to address in my burgeoning career in disruption and advocacy. All conveniently wrapped in one initiative: the 27km Cape Town Freedom Ride.

The coming social ride is a celebration of the legacy of Nelson Mandela. His choice to pursue freedom and reconciliation speak powerfully to the forward thinking strategic mobility decisions required to overcome our apartheid spatial legacy. One kilometer of cycling freedom for every year of Madiba’s incarceration is poetic as we plan to move (albeit somewhat conceptually) from places of captivity to City Hall where Madiba spoke his first words as a free man.

The route traverses neighborhoods in the city that are divided by infrastructure but have cycling lanes either established or planned, working perpendicular to that divisive heritage. It’s powerful; the trigger button for advocacy.

Thankfully, preparing for the Freedom Ride has also shown me the reason why my doxastic commitment will be worth it. Tireless discussions with authorities, revised management plans, revised dates, debating helmet laws, and the gathering of every conceivable hitch and snag have made clear in urban design terms why cycling matters. The coming Freedom Ride encapsulates the desire of people to move despite of, not because of, what is before them.

And, as with the pursuit of freedom, the bicycle has proven itself to be antifragile.

Kirsten Wilkins is a freelance Urban Designer and curious anarchist. The Freedom Ride Cape Town is a Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN) initiative taking place on 9th August. Kirsten is on the organizing team for the ride and collaborates with BEN on numerous other advocacy projects in Cape Town. Follow her on twitter @contestedspaces

Read older posts from this section

One Response to “Committing to the bike in Cape Town”

  1. Val Wilkins

    You go girl!. Sooo proud of you. You’ve shown me a degree of committment that I wasn’t aware of. All the best forward. Love


Leave a Reply