On Thursday 17 August, we held the first public Q&A session to discuss plans and invite local residents, business owners and others to share their questions, concerns and ideas about Open Streets Main Road. This followed an intensive three-week consultation period during which our team walked along Main Road knocking on doors and talking to residents and business in the area.
The evening began with an invitation to attendees to write down what they loved and what they didn’t love about Main Road. Unsurprisingly, people highlighted the character, the history and the richness in street life of this key artery of the city as things they loved. Also of no surprise were the challenges highlighted regarding the difficulties in navigating the space given the traffic, noise and, in some areas, crime.
The meeting started at 6:10pm with a presentation by our team that aimed to explain the long-term agenda of Open Streets as a programme and to invite everyone in the room to take active part in the creation of Open Streets Main Road. It was acknowledged that although the programme is a joint project with the City of Cape Town’s Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA), it can only be achieved if it is a genuine collaboration between many different players, and driven by a “collective dream” in which everyone plays a role.
We then focused on the logistics of the day, which included the details of the planned road closure, traffic management and the permit process we are currently undergoing as well as the process of consultation with both residents of the area and partners. We outlined the journey to date and the steps ahead of us, including the opportunities for people to get involved. These include joining the volunteer team, organising an activity or applying to be a vendor on the day.
The last part of the meeting was opened up to a general discussion where questions were raised about the time, the length of the closure, concerns around crime and the importance of ensuring that local residents genuinely benefit from the positive impact of Open Streets in the area.
In the first instance, we acknowledge the challenges of creating a road closure of 5km and explained that Open Streets is aiming to demonstrate to all of Cape Town how we can move differently in our city if cars are removed from the space. We listened to some of the concerns about key places that require special access and will be working on such issues in the coming days. In terms of crime, we pointed to the fact that security personnel will be employed on the day, in addition to support from local improvement districts, SAPS and City services, but also stressed the power of many people coming together to use the space with good intentions. We encouraged the group to help us communicate plans for the day widely and invite others to take part.
In terms of benefiting local residents, we acknowledged our team is small and invited everyone to suggest specific ideas on how we can achieve that. Some ideas included the creation of a market for exclusively local vendors, the invitation to faith-based groups to take part on the day and connecting with existing activities happening on parallel streets on Sundays so we can build on the existing energy.
The group agreed that they would prefer having Open Streets from 10am to 3pm and discussed a couple of ideas for the day, which included teaching adults how to cycle, getting as many people on bicycles as possible to ensure the energy is not concentrated at the hubs and exploring activities with residents along the route.
We look forward to hearing many more ideas as we continue to engage with our weekly community planning sessions taking place every Thursday at 7pm for the next five weeks.