When Open Streets Cape Town (OSCT) partnered with the WWF Nedbank Green Trust last year, we committed to producing a series of policy briefs to help create a new mindset about movement. In the second, titled Stuck in my Car - How to drive less and not die trying, OSCT consultant Gerhard Hitge shows we can be less reliant on our cars in Cape Town.
Of course, there are several factors that lead those of us with cars to use them as our primary or only means of transport. These include where we live in relation to work, our families’ needs, and when we need to travel. In our case, Cape Town’s spatial form bears the legacy of apartheid planning aimed at segregating communities and controlling population movement. Add to this decades of investment in car-centric infrastructure and the result is a “sprawling city where development density is low” and a car is the natural choice for getting around.
Then again, alternative modes of transport are desirable because motorists must deal with congestion and rising fuel costs. The car also brings with it many hazards to the greater community. These range from death and disability caused by accidents to the social exclusion of those without access to a car. Furthermore, transport accounts for 50% of the energy consumption in Cape Town and 27% of its carbon emissions; and we know that car use, especially single-occupancy, is the prime cause of emissions from the passenger transport sector. Hitge, a transportation engineer, refers to these inconvenient truths as the “elephant in the car”.
If you’ve ever considered testing alternative modes of getting from A to B, maybe now’s the time. We know it’s not easy – and won’t be until Metrorail improves its services, and MyCiTi and cycling infrastructure roll out more extensively. But, as with electricity and water, small changes in our behaviour can lead to big savings. To this end, here are a few things you could try in the meantime if car ownership is getting you down.
1. Replace some car trips with walking or cycling
Ideal for: trips under 2km
Benefits: production of endorphins; no emissions; fitness; free or cheap
2. Carpool or ride share
Ideal for: trips to and from work
Benefits: splits fuel bill; can spend the drive working, relaxing or chatting
3. Use public transport
Ideal for: trips involving groups
Benefits: parking is not an issue; social connection; can take bike on MyCiTi & train
Each of these ideas has its own individual pluses. And swapping out even one car trip per week with one of them has a greater benefit too, one that relates to the concept of supply and demand. By using alternatives to driving – often literally voting with our feet – we put pressure on the relevant agencies to meet our need for better public transport quicker.
After all, what could be more liberating than walking, more empowering than using your own muscles to pedal to your destination. Adding your voice could even fast track the delivery of a convenient integrated public transport system that plugs up all the gaps on your journey.
As stated in this brief, in the long term, a new transport mix is possible and desirable. In the short term, making small changes can lead to big savings and set us on the right path to a future of sustainable transportation.
To view the full policy brief, click the link below (under File Attachments).