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Non-Motorized Transport - South Africa


In recent decades, South African transport policy - as in many other countries - almost exclusively prioritized the extension of its road network, which in turn promoted private transport also in cities. The expansion of public transport and infrastructure for non-motorized transport, such as by bicycle or on foot, has been neglected in cities. Approximately 80% of South Africans are dependent on public transportation, which usually exists but often only in the form of privately owned minibuses. These are at times overcrowded and too expensive for many inhabitants of the townships and outskirts. Transport costs for residents of the poorly integrated townships can make up a high percentage (30% or more) of monthly expenses and are thus a major burden.

Whilst walking and biking is promoted as a healthy cost effective choice the barriers associated with this form of transport relate to safety and the provision of adequate infrastructure. 

The Department of Environmental Affairs together with other sector departments is committed to promote social, economic and environmental development. And the implementation of programmes such as the NMT initiative is one way in which to address such issues. 

Livable cities for all

Many urban dwellers in South Africa still live in suburbs and townships that are poorly connected to public transportation. Only in recent years has the expansion of public transport become an issue of greater importance. Safe cycling lanes and footpaths are still scarce. However, sustainable and inclusive mobility is a prerequisite for economic and social participation. Therefore, KfW supports selected South African municipalities in the process of expanding their infrastructure for non-motorized transport and thus also contributes to making cities more livable for all segments of the population.

In recent years the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRT) has been increasingly promoted by the Ministry of Transport together with other public transport solutions. The goal is to overcome the apartheid regime’s urban planning legacy by integrating townships with central business districts through improved public transport.

Non-motorized transport (NMT) plays a vital role as it further enhances/compliments existing public transport systems by providing secure access to public transport through walking or cycling. 

Project approach

Royal Oak Street, Orlando, Johannesburg. Source: DEA/KfW

On behalf of the German federal government, KfW Development Bank is financing the construction of infrastructure for non-motorized transport in the South African cities of Johannesburg (Soweto), Durban, and Polokwane. The project supports local municipalities in the implementation of a sustainable, inclusive, and safe transport policy. The promotion of non-motorized transport infrastructure allows citizens to reach public facilities in a safe and environmentally-friendly way. 

The project entails the construction of sidewalks and bike paths. Special attention is paid to the further development and implementation of design standards and signage. Lessons learnt from the implementation of the project have been included in a best practice manual as well as shared as part of two national NMT conferences, organized with the strong support of the project executing agency, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

In addition to financing infrastructure, the remaining project duration until the end of 2021 will be used to focus increasingly on awareness raising as well as on the availability of bicycles. In order to achieve this, the project will support existing civil society approaches and initiatives which aim to increase the awareness for and the use of non-motorized transport in South Africa.


The provision of infrastructure for NMT enables low income communities to access public facilities such as schools and hospitals in a safer and more cost-effective way. Workplaces that could previously only be reached under difficult and time-consuming conditions become more accessible through bike paths.

In addition, NMT infrastructure helps to connect households to the public transportation network. 

The existence of infrastructure for non-motorized transport is considered a basic prerequisite for encouraging people in South Africa to use bicycles or walk. In this regard, the project can ultimately contribute to improved air quality and the reduction of emissions in South African cities.


KfW Banking Group
KfW Development Bank
Infrastructure Southern Africa (LAd4)
Palmengartenstrasse 5-9
60325 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Phone +49 69 7431 4771

KfW Office Pretoria, Hatfield Gardens
BLOCK C P.O. Box 13732,
333 Grosvenor St / Cnt Arcadia & Hilda St, Hatfield 0028 Pretoria, Südafrika


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