James brings joy of cycling to Ocean View

James Esterhuizen in the pouring rain at his bicycle workshop at Ocean View Senior Secondary School.

There’s something about cycling that enhances the senses, and that is why bicycles are the focus of James Esterhuizen’s project, looking at holistic activities for the wellness of a community.

The community at the moment is Ocean View and the “healthy body, healthy mind” approach last holidays saw James taking children on cycling adventures to the Kommetjie lighthouse and surfer’s corner at Longbeach.

James grew up and matriculated in Ocean View but spread his wings, working as an electrician in other parts of the country and the world. Whenever he returned to Cape Town, his first stop would be Ocean View.

“I was seeing Ocean View deteriorate before my eyes, conditions going from bad to worse,” he said.

Ocean View is where his heart is so after packing up in Johannesburg he returned with his family to the area.

“I am a keen cyclist – not competitive – but if I need to be anywhere, whether it be Bellville or Stellenbosch – if I can pedal there, I will be there. Even on a day like this,” he said, referring to the icy, bucketing rain. “If I have decided I would cycle, there is no weather condition that would change this. When cycling all my senses are activated: I taste the rain, I taste the air, I see and smell the rain.

“That alone brings about a different mindset. I appreciate more, I am grateful more.

“I live in Ocean View and am surrounded by awesomeness. I grew up on the beaches of Kommetjie, Witsands and Simon’s Town – even during apartheid times we dared to go to beaches we were not allowed to go to. This community now doesn’t seem to realise what surroundings it possesses.”

He said it took him a 15-year meditation to see how to get the approach right and the result is Communities Wellness Solutions: Ocean View.

James is based on the grounds of Ocean View Senior Secondary in a basic container from the Bicycle Empowerment Network (BEN), crammed full of bicycle skeletons and the wherewithall he has gathered over the past few years to repair bicycles.

“As youths we never had bicycles. There were dumps in Witsands and Noordhoek, and we used to trot there on foot to collect bicycle parts. We built ourselves bicycles. It was so helpful, we knew how to use tools and how bicycles work.”

So the bicycle training by BEN formalised what he had worked out from experience. It was about the time of training, in 2012, that James started a holiday group, using bicycles belonging to the school. The group grew from 30 to 150 children, from eight to 18 years old, and included building a BMX track with the help of the municipality.

When the bicycles and the school classroom were no longer available for use, the holiday club took a bit of a knock. The BMX track fell into disrepair.

“It was impossible to send the kids away, so we did hiking,” he said. But the holiday club lost impetus.

But now James has been given permission by the school to build a new BMX track for the children. And, thanks to his work as a bicycle mechanic at Africa Burn, 21 bicycles were donated by David Bellaires and Pedals for Peace in May. This initiative sells bicycles online to Africa Burn participants who return their bicycles for donations to worthy causes – and Communities Wellness Solutions was one of the recipients.

“It’s like starting all over again – the kids are not disciplined. Progress is slow in a drug-riddled area. We need to keep it going without breaks.

“I think all kids can be educated and have orderly discipline instilled. In my experience the kids don’t want anything – they just want someone to show a little bit of interest, a little bit of respect.

“They are very skilfull, very creative. There is no exposure to a workshop environment at school, for the kids to know how to do practical things. We must create opportunities.”

James faces several challenges. His container is too small for anything besides storing bikes in progress and tools. The new bikes are stored in someone’s nearby garage. If it rains, there is nowhere for James to work or the children to come to. He is trying to build an adjoining shelter and has found that he has to use the material as soon as it arrives, otherwise it is stolen. Even a pile of cut branches is being stolen bit by bit.

He would like to have fencing to make the area more secure, and another container to keep the bicycles and the cycling gear, should he get more.

He only has 10 cycling helmets. He could do with roof sheets and shutter boards for flooring so that he can build a sheltered area. He is also looking for help to build the BMX track.

If you can help in any way, contact James at 082 536 0758 or jamesfarsouth@gmail.com