During Transport Month we invite Capetonians to experience a different way of getting around. Open Streets Cape Town (OSCT) is returning to Langa on Sunday 30 October 2016. King Langalibalele Drive will become a car-free playground for children and adults to walk, cycle, skate, explore, connect, and even dance.
The car-free Sunday in Langa is the first in a new three-month long series of Open Streets days that will take place in Bellville, the Cape Town central business district (CBD), and Mitchells Plain.
The City of Cape Town supports Open Streets as a platform to demonstrate the potential of streets by making some of them temporarily car-free so that pedestrians can enjoy the space without needing to be concerned about their safety.
Encouraging and prioritising non-motorised transport (NMT), such as walking and cycling, is pivotal for the sustainability of our city given that by 2025 and due to urbanisation, there will be at least 6,2 billion private motorised trips annually in each city across the world, leading to even more pollution and congestion.
The UITP, the international organisation for public transport authorities, policy decision-makers, scientific institutes and public transport suppliers, foresees that traffic congestion will soon bring cities to a standstill unless the market share of public transport is doubled in each country by 2025 and more people cycle or walk to where they need to be.
We are already experiencing the demoralising consequences of growing private vehicle use in Cape Town. Congestion is a familiar sight on our major arterial routes during peak-hour traffic, forcing commuters to leave their homes in the early morning hours.
This is adding to the cost of transport in terms of time and money. Breadwinners have less and less time to spend with their families and expenditure on fuel increases due to longer travelling times.
We also have to consider the impact of road-based transport on our environment. Transport currently accounts for 64% of all energy consumed in Cape Town and 33% of the city's greenhouse gas emissions, of which private vehicles are the largest culprit – 91% of all passenger transport-related liquid fuel is consumed by private vehicles.
The time has come to rethink the way people move in the city and how we can contribute to Cape Town’s long-term sustainability by opting for walking and cycling, as opposed to using private vehicles for every trip we make.
Cycling has numerous advantages: it is cheap, environmentally friendly, and is a healthy alternative to private vehicles for shorter trips.
We are also playing our part in lowering the City’s carbon emissions, with the recent awarding of a tender for the procurement of 10 battery-powered electric buses for the MyCiTi service. As we extend the footprint of the MyCiTi service across the city, we have the responsibility to limit the impact of pollution on the urban environment. Alternative fuel for public transport is no longer a choice, but a prerequisite, and we are taking the lead.
On 30 October 2016, OSCT will also run Cape Town’s first ever low-carbon transport race: the A-to-B Challenge. Teams will compete to arrive in Langa from the CBD with the smallest carbon footprint. OSCT partner, the WWF Nedbank Green Trust, will determine the winners by the modes of transport they use for their journey.
Cape Town’s long-term sustainability depends on all of us and the choices we make in how to get to where we want to be. It is as simple as opting for your feet, your bicycle, or public transport instead of a private car.