The day started on a very sad note. A cyclist was killed in Kalk bay this morning. The same streets we are trying to open and to reinvent are the site of tragedy and carnage. A day to remember why it matters to campaign for streets and cities designed for people and not cars. As clich as it may be, the truth is it could have been any of us.
Driving has a strange effect on people; it creates a disconnect with more than our external environment, it leads us to lose sense of our humanity. We seem to forget that at some point during the day, all of us, without an exception, exist outside the confines of a car. We may not all ride bicycles but on streets where cars dominate, we are all targets of such fatal accidents.
Although not the type of alternative I like to advocate for (as I like to think shared spaces enable us to find ways of coexisting, as friends at PPA would put it, safely and courteously), it seems clear we need law enforcement that protect those most vulnerable on the streets (pedestrians, people with disabilities, skaters and cyclists).
But since laws are not always perfect or complete, let alone enforced, it might be necessary to step into action as civil society. In places like in the US, for instance, cycling communities organize memorials or ghost bikes to raise awareness about poor safety on the roads and the need for profound change after a cyclist dies on the road. The cycling community in Cape Town must also find a way to speak on behalf of all of those who evidently put our lives in the hands of motorists every morning. If we are to have genuine open streets and city built for people not for cars, these tragedies can't go unnoticed.
Walking, skating or cycling are clearly not safe in Cape Town; and though drivers' behavior will not change overnight; hopefully all of us will wake up tomorrow and do something different to protect those on the road who are not protected by an armor of steel. Or better yet, we might take a proactive stand to speak and mobilise for safer streets!