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Are Cape Town’s streets safe enough?




On 23 January, Future Cape Town attended and participated in  a ‘Walk & Talk’ event hosted by Open Streets Cape Town. The walk started at Prestwich Memorial Square, heading to Bree street on the ‘fan walk’ and then walking up Bree street and ending on Heritage square.

The starting point was appropriate given the recent mugging of Future Cape Town Director, Rashiq Fataar, at the end of 2012, which could have been avoided with adequate lighting, security and a more active public realm around Prestwich Memorial Square.

The event aimed to address several issues and ways of “creating streets that generate respect for all users regardless of who we are or how we move” (link). Here are some key issues that were raised:

  • Personal safety
  • Pedestrian crossings
  • Accessibility (wheelchairs, prams)
  • Non-motorised transport (cycling as well as skating)
  • Traffic calming measures
  • Parking, and activating the urban space without adding more vehicles to the city centre
  • Informal trade

An overriding theme was the need for a mindset shift, leading to pedestrians and non-motorised transport users feeling a sense of ownership of our public space, and also leading to respect and understanding of this co-ownership by vehicle users.

Future Cape Town encourages small steps that will help to engender this mindset shift, which would hopefully feed back and lead to more small changes, and hopefully some bigger.

Says Rashiq Fataar: “It is essential to advocate for a policy and urban design-level intervention, for example in the reconfiguring of streets geared towards people, rather than vehicles. A true legacy of being designated World Design Capital 2014 could be an overarching urban design policy to transform our streets, and we encourage the City of Cape Town to consult with various groups when such a policy is introduced.”

There are, however, some small victories which can be achieved in the interim. As an example, the pedestrian crossing time over the car-heavy streets outside Cape Town Station, the largest and busiest rail station in the province, is completely inadequate. Adjusting the timing of these crossing lights to favour pedestrians would instil a sense of ownership of the streets by pedestrians.

We would also encourage better lighting of the city centre at night, which would address the personal safety problem in part; and better knowledge of the rights and obligations of NMT users, on the part of both the users and the traffic law enforcers, which would instil a sense of responsibility in NMT users as well as respect from traffic law enforcers.

Notes to editors:

  1. Future Cape Town is a non-profit think tank advocating for progressive urbanism and the future of our cities
  2. Link to Open Streets Cape Town statement about the ‘Walk & Talk’ event: here
  3. Link to Live Eco article on the ‘Walk & Talk’ event by Nikki Seegers: here
Issued by:

Media Office, Future Cape Town
media@futurecapetown.com




  • ashrafs

    I think the first thing to worry about is public transport. Because of its low safety levels, most people are worried about going into town with these services. Naturally, once that is sorted out, there would be more pedestrians on the city streets and the shift would have to take place.

    • It’s the same with bicyclists’ safety:

      Helmets and unfriendly roads/bicycle lanes keep more people away from bicycling. With the few bicyclists that we have on our roads, private vehicle users will never respect the few that do bicycle. Note, I’m talking about commuter bicyclists, not the sport enthusiasts.

  • Louis

    Yeah, maybe if the police focused more on arresting known drug dealers and other scum instead of harassing citizens by frisking them and intimidating them by flashing their weapons, streets would be safer. This is exactly what happened to me and friends a week ago, and thus was exactly the route we were walking late at night.

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