Are bike lanes racist and classist? That’s the debate in South Africa.

The Washington Post | October 28, 2016

Practically speaking, bike lanes are far from Johannesburg’s most pressing transportation concern. Less than half of 1 percent of the population of 9 million uses a bike to go to work, and the local government spends about three times as much on council members’ travel as it had planned to spend on bulking up its bike lane infrastructure.

But symbolically, they loom large. In a city deliberately sliced up by segregationist city planning, questions of where and how people are able to travel have deep, often painful resonance.


South Africa's Tower of Dreams

Slate / Roads & Kingdoms | February 6, 2015

The building, along with the neighborhood of high-rises around it, had long functioned as something of a vertical waiting room for admission into urban South Africa. Adjoining the city’s largest train and bus station, it was the landing point from which thousands of immigrants, refugees, and rural migrants took their first tentative steps into Africa’s wealthiest city, and their presence made the area dizzyingly cosmopolitan. Congolese nightclubs jostled up against bootleg Nollywood film stores and Ethiopian restaurants; the knots of gossiping women gathered on street corners chattered in Zulu, Yoruba, French, and Somali.

And for a journalist like me, Ponte seemed almost too good to be true: a building that doubled as a neat metaphor for contemporary South Africa—a carefully wrought fortress of white privilege that had fallen into disrepair and violence before emerging, haltingly, into a more inclusive but far more uncertain version of itself.


Cure for Broken Metropolises: the Insta-city

The Christian Science Monitor | September 20, 2015

Welcome to the era of the private insta-city. Around the world, developers are increasingly grafting new cities onto the edge of existing ones in an attempt to solve one of the planet’s most vexing problems: megalopolises that don’t work. From Asia to Africa to the Middle East, they are building whole communities that promise to free hundreds of thousands of residents from the litany of urban ills. Indeed, in cities that often struggle to give residents the most basic of services – water, electricity, paved roads – many see such private developments as the only functional way forward.


See more: on housing apartheid in Cape Town, on the shuttering of a clubhouse that symbolized power and privilege in Johannesburg, on a literal bridge over South Africa's income divide, and on private cities in South Africa and in Uganda