Bicycle Portraits ::: A Different Kind of Streetstyle in South Africa

Posted in Uncategorized by strytllng on June 2, 2010

While cycling up and down the bike lanes through Berlin’s breezy streets has become the new IT and bikes have quickly evolved into status symbols where safety locks can be covered with luxurious leather and the frame be engraved with our favourite poem, South African commuters are facing tougher challenges each and every single day. I have stumbled across this project on twitter with a bit more than 100 followers but was fascinated to find out that even Facehunter has twittered about this unique project – I am speaking about Bicycle Portraits by Stan Engelbrecht and Nic Grobler.

The project which has started in 2010 will not focus on photographing people who ride purely for exercise or recreation, but instead they are focussing on those who use bicycles as an integral tool in their day-to-day existence. In South Africa, only few people use the bike as a tool of transportation even though there is a lack of proper public transport infrastructure, and that which does exist is expensive and unsafe.

“I bought this bike one year ago now. And I like riding my bicycle. I’m Malawian, and I came to South Africa in November of 2008. I also had a bicycle in Malawi. I like the exercise, that’s why I like bicycles. But it’s more dangerous here because here there are lots of cars… Malawi has much fewer cars that here. Luckily since I came here I’ve had no accidents. I have a helmet at home but because it’s hot today that’s why I left it. I prefer this bike to a mountain bike because this one rides very quickly, ha, ha! But I need a faster one because this one is now finished, the tires are finished!” Inock Banda

While riding a bike in Berlin is considered hip and chic and entire streets such as Linienstrasse are dedicated to bikes and their environmental-friendly image, the means of transportation in South Africa still indicate a social gap where there is a growing divide between those who can afford motorised transport and those who struggle to.

We’ve noticed that as our major centers develop there still seems to be a trend to make cities more friendly for cars, not people.

Both guys are South Africans touring through their country by bike; documenting those they meet; with a need to raise awareness for the underprivileged bicycle community with this self-published book project. The Hardcover book will be published as soon as the costs are funded. Awareness for using bicycles among all social classes is the goal.

We’re finding out who rides bicycles, why they ride bicycles, if and why they love their bicycles, and of course why so few South Africans choose bicycles as a transport option.

“I’ve rode all over with this bike – even as far as Harrismith, Frankfort, Tweeling and Reitz. Since 1967, it’s an old bicycle! Old! I’ve got carriers for the front and back, I’ve taken off the font one, but if I go load, I put it on. I hope my children will also get into cycling in the future so that they can go to new places.” Amos Mphuti

The long-term goal of this book is to provide skills, and necessities like helmets, tires, locks and more, to support those riding bikes financially through a start-up charity and to promote cycling as a means of independent transportation, empowering the underprivileged, environmental-friendly and to regain the awareness that the city should also be for the people and not just be for cars.

Please support the project, which is 55% funded by now. Pledging starts at $1, get yourself a pre-order copy starting at $50 or even get a special shoutout with a higher pledge. For more information or the pledge-for-reward system visit – or – to get involved or find out more about the project. Follow them on twitter –

7 Responses

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  1. Janina said, on June 2, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Thank you so much for making people aware of this amazing project. I love the pictures, the bikes and the stories behind them. I will forward the link to people immediately so that this wonderful project will hopefully get the attention it so deserves!

    • strytllng said, on June 2, 2010 at 3:42 pm

      Thank you Janina. And yes, please forward it to spread the word. This is truely amazing, isn’t it?


  2. Di Russell said, on June 2, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    Great idea! Looking forward to seeing more 🙂 I’m a Canadian in Cape Town, and to me, cycling would be great for people here on so many levels.

    • strytllng said, on June 3, 2010 at 8:55 am

      I’m glad you like the project too. Another plus is the very nice email contact with the authors. I wish them the best for a big success and hopefully they can reach out to the right places in South Africa. It’s unimaginable for a girl from Berlin that riding a bike is not pure joy for everyone and very dangerous too.

  3. Alma said, on June 3, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    That is a really nice idea and I think that the SA-people need help like that.

  4. Bike Locks said, on June 3, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Botswana, Victoria Falls, Zambia Safaris are easy add ons to a South Africa Tour. Bike Locks

  5. […] Bicycle Portraits ::: A Different Kind of Streetstyle in South Africa Cool project that displays images of people and the bikes that they rely on for their livelihood in South Africa. […]

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