Suggestions welcomed for Open Streets 2018

Last years Open Streets event ran though Observatory, Salt River and Woodstock.

The organisers of Open Streets are planning the next event for February next year, and they want to hear suggestions from the public on how to improve the experience.

Sunday February 25 has been earmarked for the next Open Streets and organisers want to build on the success of those already held. Earlier this year, on the first Sunday of Transport Month (October 1), Open Streets pulled off one of the biggest road closures – outside a major sporting or cultural event – Cape Town has ever seen when a 5km stretch of Main Road from Observatory to the CBD was opened to cycling, walking, jogging, games and more.

Shaheen Manuel, from Woodstock, has followed every Open Streets the city has had to offer, and he would love to see another one.

“Cycling down what is usually a busy road and seeing your kids enjoy the space is quite simply amazing. Just by closing the road for the day, everything seems to come to life.”

He said organisers should consider having more entertainment along the route for the next event. “Perhaps even offer the local community an opportunity to sell items along the way.”

Charlene Hanekom, from Rondebosch, walked along Main Road from Observatory to the CBD and back during the last event.

“My kids were cycling and rollerskating freely on the roads, in a safe space. More of these events need to be promoted among our communities. Smaller events on a more regular basis,” she said.

Ms Hanekom suggested that organisers focus more on using problem roads with high accident rates.

The idea of car-free streets was tested in Cape Town as far back as 2003 – starting with a car-free festival on Klipfontein Road organised by the City of Cape Town and the provincial government – and in the past five years, Open Streets has become a fixture in the minds and hearts of Capetonians.

Marcela Guerrero Casas, managing director and co-founder of Open Streets Cape Town, a non-profit, said they wanted to use feedback and lessons learned to test the feasibility of a regular network of longer road closures.

“Next year, the Open Streets programme takes a leap into a new chapter to explore the long-term potential of the programme for Cape Town. Having tested the concept successfully in Langa, Mitchell’s Plain, the city centre, Observatory and Bellville, we are in discussions with City officials about ways to amplify the impact of this programme,” she said.

In the next six months, she said, organisers would refine a plan for a longer closure on Eisleben Road for Open Streets Mitchell’s Plain, planned for Sunday March 25 next year.

“We have learnt a lot in the past five years. In addition to the logistics and challenges of closing down a road, we have realised that for an Open Streets programme to succeed, we must celebrate and encourage a culture of public and street life. Of course, this doesn’t happen over night and many parties must play their role. The most important part of growing Open Streets will be public support and collaboration,” Ms Guerrero Casas said

Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, said Open Streets was part of the City’s strategy to”transform transport behaviour” and “encourage people to become less dependent on private vehicles”.

“Ultimately, what we need to do is close a major arterial road every Sunday, and allow people to move by foot, cycle, skateboard, rollerblade, or just play on the street without cars interrupting.”

A 5km closure along a main road 0 such as the M4 -would start to get them closer to “building Open Streets into the fabric of Cape Town” to connect different parts of the city without vehicles interfering.

“Connecting the southern suburbs between Cape Town and Simon’s Town, the M4 is an integral part of the lives of many Capetonians. It starts as Darling Street in the CBD and becomes Sir Lowry Road and then Victoria Road in Woodstock, before continuing as Main Road from Salt River to Simon’s Town station. From there it changes names three more times, before continuing as Main Road to its end near Smitswinkel Bay. Most Capetonians know it simply as ‘the main road’,” Mr Herron said.

The Open Streets Indaba on Thursday January 18 will discuss ideas and hear feedback. Email or 021 286 0823 for more information.