when your car gets stolen
Car-free Caro punts bike lanes
18/10/2005 22:40 - (SA)
On Car Free Day, Caro Russell of Johannesburg uses a bicycle instead of a
car as her car was stolen a decade ago. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)
Johannesburg - Car-Free Day in Gauteng, on October 20, will be like any
other for 53-year-old Johannesburg resident Caro Russell.
She has pedalled her way into a decade of relaxation, reduced spending and
improved health ever since she adopted cycling - after two cars were stolen
during what now feels like a previous life.
Last year, Russell drove a car again for the first time in 10 years.
"It felt strange to be steering while sitting in this cage."
If there's one call she would like to make, having set such a car-free
precedent, it's for cycling lanes to be built alongside Johannesburg's main
"There are a lot more people out there cycling these days," says Russell
whose roots make her appreciate being able to cycle.
"I grew up in a children's home where there was one bicycle for 150 kids. If
you had a chance to ride it once a month you were lucky."
Life's turned around for her
Recalling how she felt the last time she walked out her house to see that
her car had been pinched, Russell says: "I was filled with animosity and
However, after a year of cycling, things had turned around for her.
"I was saying to myself: 'Thanks guys, if it wasn't for you, I would never
have got into this'."
She says she has not even begun to count how much money she has saved.
Having once been someone who could not walk out the front door without her
car keys, Russell now sympathises with those who get stressed commuting in
Part of her daily commute to work is a hill up Fourth Street, Bez Valley,
which she once drove up daily taking her children to school.
"When I first started cycling it took me a good, solid three months to make
it up Fourth Street without getting off my bike."
Singer Bob Dylan helped.
"I used to think about his song - Positively Fourth Street."
More on Russell's mind now at weekends is the thought of a cup of tea in her
friend's lounge as she pedals across the city to Fairlands for visits at
"Then, as I head home, I dream of the comfort of sitting in my own lounge
talking to my husband, enjoying a cigarette."
Wants to ride across Africa
In between, taxi traffic along Beyers Naude Drive requires utmost
concentration to avoid becoming a road casualty.
"Cycling lanes would make things a lot better," she says.
Meanwhile, her cycling aims are not confined to the streets of Johannesburg.
She would like to pedal across Africa.
"In my mind I see myself on that bike, pitching a tent among the elements
and the elephants.
"It's something I think I shall have to do."