As day breaks, the main artery linking the Cape Town CDB to the southern suburbs is the picture of calm. Early morning commuters wait patiently for any one of the Golden Arrow buses or minibus taxis that ease their way along Main and Victoria roads into the City Bowl. Rush hour it most certainly is not, and everyone is glad for it.
But as the store shutters open and coffee shops from Woodstock to Wynberg welcome their first customers of the day, panic begins to set in.
The appearance of more vehicles on the road suddenly seems to trigger an arcane and angry contempt for the traffic laws.
The mood has turned ugly, and the fight for what precious little road space there is has begun.
An inspection by the Tatler has found the motorists are openly flouting traffic laws along the strip, from parking in bus lanes to drivers using loading zones as parking bays. Parking in designated bus stops is also rife. We also saw several motorists stopping their vehicles on pedestrian crossings. And because motorists park in pick-up and drop-off points for Golden Arrow buses, these commuters are forced to stand in the busy road to flag down buses.
According to the City of Cape Town’s Parking By-law, drivers of vehicles other than a bus or a minibus-taxi are not allowed to remain stationary at a bus stop or allow the vehicle to be driven, parked or remain stationary in a dedicated busway or at the entrance to a dedicated busway.
The situation is worsened by speeding minibus taxis that frequently stop without warning, believing the person waiting for the bus requires their services instead. So bus drivers are unable to pick up the fare.
Hot spots for traffic transgressions are in the vicinity of Station Road in Woodstock, Rhodes Avenue in Mowbray, near the Village Centre in Rondebosch, and outside Cavendish Square in Claremont.
Told of the results of the inspection, City mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith, said unfortunately the city had a law-breaking culture pervading many areas of society. “Traffic transgressions is just one such area,” he said.
“Illegal parking is a problem all over the city and our enforcement services try and police this and other transgressions to the best of their ability. Between October and December last year, Cape Town traffic services recorded 23 302 parking offences across the metropole. Our law enforcement department issued 1 119 fines in terms of the parking by-law, while the Metro police department recorded 3 737 parking offences. That’s a total of 28 158 fines issued.”
He said the City had limited resources and officials could not be everywhere all the time.
“The City calls on residents to assist traffic officers by reporting any traffic issues to 021 596 1999, in order to assist in directing our enforcement operations.”
Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport, said there were no imminent road infrastructure projects to alleviate congestion in Woodstock, Mowbray, Rondebosch and Claremont within the next five years.
“The City council on December 10 last year endorsed a congestion management programme, which sets out the expenditure, infrastructure projects and other interventions aimed at addressing traffic congestion in Cape Town over the next five financial years.
“The additional R750 million will be spent in accordance with this programme which prioritised Blaauwberg, Kuils River and Kommetjie as the three growth areas in most need of intervention,” Mr Herron said.
“I want to emphasise, however, that we cannot build ourselves out of traffic congestion as the more roads we build, the more commuters will opt for private vehicles. The only long-term solution is for the different role-players – from the City, to the general public and private sector – to work together. We need our partners in the private sector to explore how they can contribute to traffic-demand management by implementing flexi-time or by incentivising employees for making use of public transport.
“We need business people and investors to assist us with expertise and money in finding long-term solutions because in the end, congestion comes at a great economic cost.”
He said most importantly, residents would have to change their travel behaviour and attitude towards public transport and non-motorised transport such as walking and cycling, becoming less dependent on private cars, not as a matter of choice, but as a matter of urgency.