The Sea Point Promenade is an exemplary expression of shared public space in Cape Town. It truly has developed to become a receptacle for joy, a space to speak out, a place of relaxation, a display of diversity, a leader in disability friendliness, and a snapshot of the best that tourism has to offer…and it is free.
It is all these things, considered and negotiated simultaneously.
The shared use of the Sea Point Promenade is currently under review by The City of Cape Town and is open for comment and public participation until 10 April.
This review is putting forward regulations and restrictions for active mobility (bicycles, skateboards, e-mobility etc) on the back of safety concerns voiced by local residents. The City of Cape Town Transport Directorate has put forward the following recommendations for the future use of the promenade in response to these complaints, particularly with regards to possible collisions between pedestrians and e-mobility:
The City of Cape Town recommendation is as follows:
- Pedestrians should have exclusive use of the Sea Point Promenade from Mouille Point to the Sea Point Pavilion swimming pool; and
- Cyclists on peddling bicycles, skateboarders, and rollerbladers should share the sidewalk (pavement) on the sea-side of Beach Road; and
- No e-bikes, e-scooters, or motorised devices should be allowed on the sidewalk on the sea-side of Beach Road or on the promenade.
The motivation and response to create safer shared spaces are always welcome. Importantly this is not a transport problem, it needs a more holistic solution to managing interaction in public space.
How do we design for safety?
Increasing personal safety in urban design terms arises from a delicate balance between addressing physical design, user education and enforcement. It is critical to address all three of these contributing factors and their interactions in a location-specific manner over time to be certain that space or place will improve.
This consideration of factors and their interplay does not appear in the City’s recommendation.
The procedural process of consultation, the formulation of solutions, the scope and contents of the supporting technical report, and the manner in which this final recommendation has been derived will be formally addressed by mobility advocates in the comment process and is too lengthy for this article.
In summary, we are of the opinion that it is flawed, inconsistent and lacks the data to justify making such a significant and permanent change to this shared, world-class metropolitan-scale public amenity. Worryingly, the technical report clearly states that the suggested recommendation to move bicycles, skateboards et al. to the narrower and cluttered Beach Road pavement area would be unsafe for all concerned, yet it still appears as a component of a singular recommended solution.
Additionally, the suggested recommendation does not address education, safety awareness, signage or communication. In the recently completed multimillion Rand upgrade of the Promenade, including constructing additional pathways and user access, signage was included in the project scope to address awareness and space sharing etiquette. To date, no signage has been installed on-site to educate or encourage/warn or educate visitors and users of the space. Actions to ban or restrict use without residents having the knowledge of what is permissible or acceptable is a punitive measure.
With regards to enforcement, at this stage, speed regulation of e-scooters is not possible without clear by-law support, nor can the suggested pavement-use recommendation be considered a legal mobility space without being reconfigured and re-classified as such. The interplay between physical space, education and enforcement to create a safer environment for the whole of Beach Road and the broader precinct has not been considered and therefore solutions forwarded cannot ensure that greater safety will be achieved. The technical report created does not include the Beach Road pavement are in its scope, nor does it consider mobility beyond the area of suggested punitive restrictions.
Who does this space "belong" to?
The Sea Point Promenade is zoned as a Public Open Space and as such is managed by the City Parks Directorate who have endorsed/allowed the use of bicycles, skateboards and self-propelled mobility to support recreational use of this facility since 2013, and in a similar fashion to the International award-winning Green Point Urban Park with which the promenade connects. At no point in the technical documentation nor public participation have representatives from this Directorate been active or available for consultation.
What is the real question?
The initial question/motion that was tabled by local ward Councillor Nicola Jowel in January 2020 was a request to investigate an extended shared NMT (non-motorised transport) route from Camps Bay to the V&A Waterfront, based on the success of what currently exists. This motion has not been addressed, rather the request to develop more shared space and extend the capacity of this seaside route has been skewed and distorted to reduce access, and put at risk the world-class public space asset that was initially recognised.
The scope of the study and the recommendation for public comment simply does not answer the request put forward to Transport Directorate officials.
It is disparaging to see the City spend so much effort and scarce resources on the current heated debate with regards to the use of the space when our newsreels and the attention of decision-makers should be dedicated to foregrounding systemic issues of poverty, gang violence and injustice.
What is the real cost?
We raised this in August 2021, when the first draft of this report was published, we appealed formally to the former Mayor to request that the resource capacity of the Transport Directorate should be considered thoughtfully and in a more spatially just and distributivity equal manner. The promenade works well, has recently been upgraded at great cost, and with the NMT budget as only 2% of the City’s overall transport spend, what other pedestrian priorities should rather be forefronted?
A question that was never answered.
Why sharing matters.
Our city is polarised, spatially divided, and grappling with aggressions to social cohesion on multiple fronts.
Last weekend on Human Rights Day, thousands of people from across the city enjoyed a warm day, the cool sea spray breeze, and the 15 000m2 of free access seafront area colloquially called “The Prom” in a ballet of expression, recreation, pure joy and space sharing.
This multiplicitous place was one of shared respite. While the restrictive and ill-considered recommendations to ban and segregate mobility uses should be reconsidered, the motion which began this debate could not be more relevant and critical.
- How can we extend and create more shared public spaces like the promenade outside of the city bowl?
- How can we advocate for greater walking and cycling connectivity?
- How can we create public spaces that function as places of safety and respite or create;
- Places where we can be together in hope and not fear.
- Places where we can negotiate sharing, see each other, acknowledge each other and decide to make room as We Move*
The promenade doesn't need to be spatially segregated in order to further improve the little space we have to share. There ample scope for creating awareness, user education on sharing and positive social cohesion efforts.
The city needs to focus resources on creating more world-class safe shared public spaces to address the legacy of segregation, and show that it is forward-looking and caring.
Therefore, we support the original motion to investigate extending this safe, shared public space with all self-powered wheeled mobility that currently exists, from Camps Bay to the Waterfront. This in the context of planned and budgeted investment into shared public space movement corridors across the metro.
We support and call for the finalisation of the City of Cape Town draft policy on the use of e-scooters and battery-powered micro-mobility to create certainty and a legal framework for speed and safety regulation. In the interim, Open Streets Cape Town has requested and negotiated a reduction in moving speed of 50% with the primary e-mobility rental companies operating in the area in order to reduce potential collisions (currently the most cited complaint). Rented scooters should be moving no faster than committed joggers in this space (10-12km/hr) for the duration of the public participation window. Thanks to the operators that responded to this call for collaboration until the City initiates proactive stakeholder engagement.
We call for a supporting transport and mobility study that includes all of Beach Road, recognising the necessity to slow down motorised vehicles to 25 km p/h and create easier and safer access to the beachfront for all local residents and visitors.
Our calls are grounded in the evidence-based understanding of the role of NMT to reduce our dependence on private transportation that will be a big driver to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, make us healthier. Let’s move forward together, not backward.
This is our view. Please share yours before the 14th of April and“Have Your Say” by taking part formally in one of the following ways:
- City of Cape Town online comment submission (We made a template to help you)
- Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org (reference number 7200334254)
- Visit the City of Cape Town “Open House” display on the Seapoint Promenade on 26th March from 10am-2pm (near Rocklands Road)
*We Move. Slang said in response to something challenging to reiterate that they will persevere despite the circumstances. A positive and encouraging rally cry.