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Meet Cape Town's new bicycle mayor

by Simangele Mzizi 30 Sep 2022
Sindile Mavundla in Bree Street

His job is to promote and grow Cape Town’s cycling culture. Cape Town’s new Bicycle Mayor lays out his vision and plans for a cycle-friendly and inclusive city.

His smile and charisma are as big and bold as his ideas on how to promote cycling in the Mother City. Meet Cape Town’s new Bicycle Mayor, 33-year-old Sindile Mavundla, who is the second incumbent in this novel position.

Founder and managing director of Khayelitsha bike shop Khaltsha Cycles, Mavundla was appointed to the position in August 2022. He’ll be “the human face and voice of cycling” in Cape Town for the next two years.

The idea of a “bicycle mayor” originated in 2016 in cycle-oriented city Amsterdam, where a global NGO based there called BYCS set up a programme to promote the view that bicycles can transform cities, and cities transform the world.

To date, BYCS has a network of 132 bicycle mayors worldwide. In Cape Town, the programme is run with assistance from the Consulate General of the Netherlands and the Pedal Power Association. The NGO envisions an urban future in which 50 % of city trips are by bicycle by 2030 and believes bicycles can be key drivers in attaining gender-fair cities, decreasing urban inequality, improving community health, fostering neighbourhood economies, or ensuring urban resilience.

Cape Town became the first city in South Africa to join BYCS’s global Bicycle Mayor programme in 2018 when Lebogang Mokwena, a 34-year-old cycling advocate, educator and commuter cyclist, was appointed the Mother City’s first Bicycle Mayor.


Mavundla believes Mokwena did an “incredible job” in getting people of colour, especially women, on bicycles with her Learn2Cycle classes, which were run in Mowbray with partners. His role is to build on her legacy, fast-track commuter cycling and reimagine Cape Town as a city with more non-motorised transport, such as walking, skating and cycling, in line with other global cities that have benefitted from this approach.

Encouraging a cycling culture in Khayelitsha and his time at Open Streets Cape Town – a citizen-driven initiative working to change how people experience streets – propelled him to his new role. His one-stop bicycle shop, a joint venture with Juma Mkwela and Divinia Stevens, aims to create cycling townships by providing quality affordable bicycles and running programmes that include cycling classes and the promotion of safer cycling in communities.

He explains: “When we started in Khayelitsha, the only people who were cycling were plumbers and electricians. We came in, ran lessons on cycling and the bike shop followed. Now we have this massive cycling culture. The conversation now is, how do we replicate this”. He says while there has been a focus “to make cycling a thing” in Cape Town, “what we find is that officials are afraid to make mistakes in the city because of the backlash they will encounter”.

The challenge for him now is presenting solutions to big business that have worked elsewhere, and inspiring a different type of thinking and imagination. He’s also conceptualising a study, in collaboration with the University of Cape Town, on the economic impact of bicycles in Cape Town.

World Bicycle Day
The Box in the CBD recently celebrated World Bicycle Day with a lunchtime ride in town.


Mavundla’s love of cycling began during his childhood in Khayelitsha. As a boy he cycled everywhere with his red BMX bike. “One great memory is packing my lunch on Saturdays and going exploring on my bike. I developed an understanding of the power of cycling and wanted to share it with others. It’s so gratifying when you have Mama Irene at 58 years old coming to our bike shop saying, 'Teach me how to ride a bike',” he notes.

Apart from his role as Bicycle Mayor of Cape Town, Mavundla – who has a qualification in Business Administration – also consults for The Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI), which was established by the German government to help cities transform their transport systems.

Shortly after being appointed, he was invited by the German Consul to join an Urban Mobility study tour to Germany to learn how integrated urban mobility systems work. On his return, he formulated his top three priorities for the two next years:

1. Expanding Learn2Cycle classes to more areas for people to either learn to ride bikes or improve their skills with a focus on Khayelitsha, Langa, Dunoon, Observatory, Claremont and the CBD.

2. Establishing a bicycle industry lobby group by bringing together all bicycle brands under one roof, similar to what the automotive industry has done. “The vision is that the lobby group can then fund the work we do, which includes getting Bree St in town and Albert Rd in Woodstock in order again and lobbying government to build protected bike lanes."

3. Rejuvenating the Bike2Work initiative, and supporting existing cycling communities such as Fixie Fit SA and Critical Mass Cape Town, which regularly host group rides in Cape Town. Bike Buses were gaining ground in Cape Town before the pandemic with cyclists from all walks of life cycling together using a set route.

Sindile Mavundla - Cape Town Bicycle Mayor


Mavundla plans to lobby business leaders to support employees who want to cycle to work, but don’t have the means. One way to do this is to create schemes where employers subsidise 50 % of the bicycle cost and kit and allow employees to pay off the remaining fee in stages. Bicycle shops, which sell equipment and do maintenance work, are also brought into “the ecosystem” this way.

In the CBD, this is already happening at the Woolworths Head Office in Longmarket St. The building’s basement was remodeled to include access control, bike parking for over 30 bikes, lockers and showers. This has allowed employees to cycle to work and have their bikes serviced by Khaltsha Cycles. The Box in Lower Burg St also recently installed a bike park with parking bays, lockers and showers that can be rented for R300 per month. Mavundla believes other corporates should follow suit and he already has a plan in place for mobilising big business.

On 21 October, during transport month, he will host a group ride at 12h30 from Gugulethu to the Civic Centre and will be joined by Western Cape Premier Alan Winde, Cape Town Executive Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis and Daylin Mitchell, the Western Cape Minister for Mobility.

“The commitment is that all three need to have bike programmes in their offices and use bikes for inter-governmental meetings. We’ll hold them accountable and set up the programme ourselves. After that, we’re aiming to pitch the idea to the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, using Woolworths as a case study,” he concludes.


Let's go for a spin