Pedaling Towards Progress: iBoni, a new innovation in South African public transport

Flickr/CC/Tony Webster | Capital Bikeshare in Washington DC, is an example of a similar initiative

By Zarreen Kamalie


You’ve got the chance to beat traffic, while still racing past everyone on the street, now what would you do? We’d love to say this is your newfound superpower, but it’s still something just as exciting. If you’re living in a city in South Africa, then start looking out for this new innovation in public transport.

South Africa’s first bicycle and scooter sharing business, iBoni, is in its concept phase. iBoni strives to better the urban environment and all who live in it, by increasing the air quality, providing a green and convenient mode of transport, and essentially creating a culture of cycling. In 2010, a survey on bike ownership in Johannesburg showed that in the Johannesburg CBD and Alexandra (township in Johannesburg), only 2% of the households owned a bicycle. With iBoni, bike ownership will no longer be a hindrance to sustainable innovation and a brighter urban future.

While iBoni has not yet revealed the technicalities of how the system operates, for the mean we can make the assumption that the system is based on similar models in other parts of the world whereby bicycles are made available for shared use to individuals on a very short term basis. Clients would be expected to borrow the bike from one point, and return it at another. When a certain amount of time on the bicycle is either inexpensive or free, the option becomes a sustainable, cost-effective alternative to conventional public transport.

The iBoni team plans to make car ownership an option, and no longer a necessity. Tapping into the sharing economy, the iBoni team hopes to make car ownership redundant in South Africa by 2025. The key word here is also, sustainability. As a young economy, green energy and modes of livings are a viable option to cutting back on emissions that typically come with every country’s industrial revolution.

Efficient public transport is an essential factor in the successful urban development of any economy. As it stands in South Africa, various options are available, but the South African public in its cities’ outlying districts face massive challenges. With the growing influx of citizens flocking to the cities for employment, South Africa could easily be looking at increased pressure and demand on the resources that governments have to invest in transport.

iBoni is currently based in Gauteng, the South African province where the country’s commercial hub, Johannesburg, is located. This year, the Eco Mobility World Festival of 2015 took place in Johannesburg, from the 1st of October to the 31st of October. The festival’s mass participation event, ‘Freedom Ride’, saw over 4000 cyclists riding through the streets of Johannesburg. To top it off, the City of Kaohsiung and ICLEI, donated 24 bikes to iBoni. The Eco Mobility Festival will showcase the latest innovations in sustainable transportations, giving iBoni the publicity this promising enterprise deserves.

The idea behind sharing services is also an important concept to be instilled in urban communities. Not only would the idea of environmental conservation make one feel better, but also the idea of establishing bonds through the sharing of goods and services. By establishing these bonds, Johannesburg’s urban population could realise that their shared commitment to a greater city starts with a bike.