On Saturday 4 February, we hosted 10 “car-free CBD” enthusiasts on Longmarket Street. The group met at the intersection with St George’s Mall.
We chose Longmarket Street because:
- It was a new addition to this year’s first Open Streets Day, in the City Centre.
- Some consider it an opportunity for a pedestrian route through the CBD, even though this is only informal at present (there is no indication that the City backs this).
- It has a symbolic significance in Cape Town as it is the only street that runs the full width of the City Bowl from Bo-Kaap to District Six. This significance will only grow in importance as people move back to District Six, resulting in the need for a strong link to and from the CBD. This would be to promote socioeconomic and cultural integration and connection.
OSCT chairperson Rory Williams and urban planner Rebecca Cameron led the walk in two separate groups. One group walked up Longmarket Street from St George’s Mall to Chiappini Street in Bo-Kaap, and then down Shortmarket Street. The second group walked down Longmarket Street to Primrose Street at the entrance to the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and back along Shortmarket Street. This allowed us to explore and compare Longmarket and Shortmarket streets.
While walking along Longmarket, we played “car-free CBD street bingo”. This game required participants to mark off the items or design attributes they identified on the street that matched what was on their bingo card. It allowed everyone to learn about the features a car-free street would need and to be aware of whether Longmarket Street has these already. Pictured is example of the cards we used.
The good news is that most people could shout “bingo!” by the end of the walk, letting us know that Longmarket Street is somewhat equipped for pedestrians. However, there was a clear gap in the provision of non-motorised transport facilities.
As the morning concluded, we discussed what we had experienced and engaged with along the street. Here is some of the feedback:
- Each block has its own identity and there is little sense of a congruent design. This can be positive in that it provides variation and interest along a walk. But it is problematic at the same time, as Longmarket Street is not a "place" but rather a series of spaces. The level and outcome of future interventions might, therefore, be reliant on the power and wealth of individual stakeholders along the stretch.
- Sections of the eastern side of Longmarket Street are pedestrianised. It would be interesting to understand the logic behind just these sections going car free. Why didn't other sections undergo the same treatment? And why not the whole street?
- The way pedestrianised sections intersect with non-pedestrianised roads needs greater attention. For example, on Buitenkant Street there is no clear crossing for pedestrians and the sloped pavements are not in a straight line. This would make it very dangerous for a wheelchair user to cross.
- To move quickly, it would be preferable to have a street with fewer obstructions. This raises the consideration of programming different pedestrian routes within the city. Longmarket Street is a quicker route than Shortmarket Street.
This Talking Streets walk marked the beginning of a series of events that look at the development of an Open Streets network in Cape Town while promoting low-carbon mobility. We hope you will join us for the next one.
Talking Streets is part of our work in partnership with the WWF Nedbank Green Trust