In Accra, People and Their Bikes Create a Sub-Culture
A 2010 World Bank study on Accra estimated that only 1 to 4 percent of people in the city ride bicycles, whether to work, to school, to shopping activities, or for leisure. According to an earlier study by the Centre for Cycling Expertise, a Ghana-based, non-profit organization focused on promoting cycling and walking in cities, the estimate is much more likely around 9 percent, or almost one out of every ten people in the city of Accra.
This photo slideshow was inspired by a project by two photographers in South Africa to photo document the bicycling culture in Southern African cities.
How Many Bicyclists are There Out There?
One of the challenges to finding an accurate estimate on bicyclists in the city is in the very fact that many transportation research studies fail to consider bicycling, even when they aim to consider the gamut of transportation modes in the city.
Another challenge is in knowing where to look to get an accurate reflection of this sub-culture. Some of the areas where bicycle ridership is the highest is in Nima, Maamobi, Newtown and Pigfarm, all somewhat centrally located, and all lower-income areas and with high levels of informal business activity. In addition, many of these areas lack a large number of major thoroughfares; given that throughout most of the city, bicycle infrastructure (bicycle lanes) are nonexistent, smaller roads can mean slower traffic, which is a safe option for cyclists who are forced to share the road space with private vehicles.
Although not nearly as numerous in numbers as cars or tro-tros, bicyclists (of all ages, but almost exclusively male here in Accra), are ubiquitous throughout the city, especially in certain areas. While challenges and limits exist (such as drivers' disregard for cyclists on the road, poorly planned or nonexistent bicycle lanes, and an overall automobile-biased orientation to planning) bicyclists are here to stay, and cycling presents an affordable, accessible form of transport.
Based in Accra, Ghana, Victoria is a community planner, urbanist and communications professional who is passionate about inserting community voice and dialogue in the planning process. In her writings and research, she explores the dynamics of West African cities, the people in them, and how they negotiate their space.
Sustainable Cities Collective