On top of my herniated disk, or perhaps, because of it, my knee has suffered major stress and I haven't been able to get on that bicycle for a full week! Yesterday, however, the healing begun to quickly set in thanks to a fantastic acupuncture session, but also to a number of various Open Streets-inspired meetings: in the morning, I had a chance to speak to Gary Kendall from the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership. Gary is an expert in issues of sustainability and has given the concept of mobility a great deal of thought. He makes a very convincing case of how electrical bicycles can be the answer in a country like South Africa. He points to China and the 140 million electrical bikes that populated its streets in only nine years as an example. Despite the obvious differences in terms of population and space, the two so-called emerging economies face similar challenges in terms of health, environment, urban sprawl, etc. Hopefully, nobody will kill the electric bicycle as the electric car was killed in the US! Gary will be traveling to Bogota in a couple of weeks and though he will just miss ciclovia, I'm sending him on an expedition along Bogota's bike lanes it would be great to send each one of our OS supporters (his organization is one of them) on a trip to see where it all started in 1976.
Next, I went to see my fellow Bicycle Cape Town founder Jonathan Cherry, the director and owner of Camissa Bicycles, which imports folding bicycles in South Africa. Apparently the business is so good, the order they are waiting for has already been sold and the waiting list is growing for the next shipment. Clearly, the cycling frenzy is only growing. As we sip our tea and talk about how the dream of Open Streets can only be fully realized with a sustainable financial plan in place, he speaks of his dream: to free people! He says we are slaves to the misconceived and tragic notion that we can only move around in our cars and are therefore bound to buying petrol, paying car insurance, maintenance, etc. in perpetuity. I sit there and remember what Gary had said in the morning: civilization can only be explained through mobility. It was the need for better and quicker mobility that enabled the progression from the wheel to the steamed engine, which in turn got us to industrialise and society to change at such crazy speed. Marvelous things have taken place as a result, yet as we all know, the model of transportation most of us continue to rely on is not only unsustainable, as Jonathan would put it, it keeps is un chains. It constrains us to a motorized vehicle that pollutes, gets stuck in traffic, requires tons of money for petrol, insurance, maintenance and since society tells us our wroth is measured by our belongings, by the need to get a better, bigger and fancier one every time. Jonathan wants to free us all form that by returning to the wheel. I guess, it's just time to go back to basics.
I finish my tea and head to see Howard Simms. He has been an incredible supporter and advisor throughout the past couple of months. His company, Hammer Live Brands has been behind the organization of Open Streets and a strong supporter of the bicycle movement. In fact, they will be rolling out the first Bicycle Film Festival in South Africa on 23 November this year! We speak about a potential financial model. Starting with how to ensure I do not end on my beloved open streets full time! and how to guarantee the resources that can make Open Streets as exciting, beautiful and impactful as they can be. Ideas about corporates sponsorship get us scheduling a few meetings next week. My homework: to polish up the presentation I've by now perhaps overutilised and show how Open Streets are opening hearts (and wallets) all over the world.
My last meeting is at the lovely bicycle caf Startling & Hero, first to arrive are AIR's founders Vanessa and Neal. They agreed to be the conveners and leaders for the yoga component of Open Streets. With the change of location, organizing this constituency becomes difficult, yet they have thought of an alternative plan! In collaboration with Earthchild, an NGO that works with children and have rolled out a programme teaching yoga to kids in townships, the proposal is now to bring a few yogis from the city and focus on a larger group of children (and adults) from Grassy park and neighboring areas. It will be an open session where everyone is welcome. I suspect many people in grassy park have never tried doing yoga, so hopefully the sight will be so interesting, or even bizarre, that we might get some adventurous souls joining in spontaneously.
As we start winding down our yoga plans, Jill Greenberg and Lisa Kane arrive. Both of them are avid supporters of Open Streets. Jill has seen them in action in Bogota and several cities in her native USA; Lisa has a strong passion for them as an expert in sustainable transport and a true believer in the equitable use of streets! They are both interested in helping film the first OS day. Their idea is to get Street Films involved. Of course, the challenge here is lack of resources so we brainstorm several ideas on how to utilize the first few OS events the city is organizing to get some footage and start raising money for OS long term through Kickstarter and potentially Ioby. This last discussion went beyond filming though. Lisa and Jill have an incredible amount of experience and wisdom when it comes to both dealing with political bodies and working on sustainable transport issues. Jill used to work for a Senator in Washington DC, and Lisa is completing her PhD on issues of transport (could no have asked for better sounding boards than those two!).
The day ended with a magic massage at the constellation house by my friend Efua Prah. The back, the knee and the mind were feeling the flow of new blood, new ideas and energy to continue Opening Streets in Cape Town. A luta continua..