Thabo Mohlala

Late last year the City of Tshwane invited students to submit ideas as part of its ‘Tshwane Inter-University Innovation Challenge’ to solicit ideas that could assist it on how it can effectively address its service delivery challenges.

The city needed fresh and innovative ideas to urgently deal with challenges particularly around transport, energy and electricity, revenue collection and waste management. The challenge involved students from the neighbouring tertiary institutions which included Unisa, University of Pretoria and Tshwane University of Technology.

One of the students who grabbed the opportunity with both hands was Nkamogeleng Matloga. Currently studying for BSc at Unisa, Matloga submitted a project that seeks to provide solutions to the challenge of traffic congestion in the city’s central business area.

Matloga’s submission came third in the transportation category of the challenge earning her R50 000 in seed funding for a pilot project for the City of Tshwane and access to incubation services.

Called ‘BCycle’ Matloga’s project aims to eliminate traffic gridlock at every intersection in the city by encouraging cycling instead of driving around in cars.  Not only will it rely on ‘pedal power’ but it would also tap into the latest smartphone technology.

Said Matloga: “My aim with BCycle is to reduce the number of taxis and cars in the CBD by introducing bicycles, and I think young people would be open to this.,”  She pointed out that the city centre has three big university campuses and various colleges and high schools. Matloga noted that people walk a lot to get to the taxis and it could be easier and cheaper to get around on a bicycle.

The other positive spin off of the cycling project – though not one of the stated aims – is the promotion of healthy living of those using the cycling service. Health experts have advised people to exercise as the country is facing an increasing number of people who suffer from lifestyle conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity due to lack of physical activity.

Explaining how the project will unfold, Matloga said riders would rent a bicycle to reach their destinations. She said bicycle parks or stations will be spread around strategic areas in the CBD for easy access and customer convenience.

Anyone wishing to ride one of the bicycles, she explained, would use an app to unlock the bike of their choice and pay for it. The customer would then ride to the bicycle station nearest to their chosen destination and drop off the bicycle there.

Asked how she will deal with the problem of theft, Matloga said this would be solved by locking the bicycles into ‘thief-proof steel racks when not in use’. The bicycles would also be fitted with tracking devices, she added, so that their whereabouts can be traced at all times.

Another potential challenge relates to the safety of cyclists on the roads. But Matloga said, in the short term, the safest and easiest places to put her idea to the test would be at campuses close to town. In the long term, she said, the solution would be for the City of Tshwane to build bicycle lanes in the CBD. Matloga said this will help create awareness and excitement about the project.