According to Antonio Machado, "the road is made by walking" but as we discovered last week, it is made by walking AND talking. With the clear vision of creating streets that generate respect for all users regardless of who we are or how we move Open Streets Cape Town officially launched its Walk and Talk series on Wednesday January 23 and with it, its awareness-raising programme for the year.
The purpose of the series is to engage members of the community as well as city officials in interrogating the state and the potential of our streets. It is an experiment of sorts that entails observing and experiencing urban spaces and building shared understandings on how to make our city a better place for all. Open Streets mean different things in different cities around the world and the working group is determined to outline what open streets look, sound and feel like in Cape Town. It was great to confirm we are not alone in this quest and that many other Cape Town residents are eager to explore the same.
City Councillors Brett Herron and Dave Bryant were part of the thirty-strong group who walked from the Prestwich Memorial, on the fan walk and along Bree Street. It also included local residents and business owners of Bree Street, representatives of Future Cape Town, the Cape Town Partnership, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), WWF and UCT among others. The route, planned along six specific stops raised a number of fascinating issues, including the newly painted cycle lanes, accessibility, road signs, construction sites, the need to reduce speed limits and the importance to inject a doses of informality to formal trade in order to attract people from all over town.
The 90 minute walk concluded at Heritage Square, currently used as a parking lot, with participants observing and dreaming of the potential to use the square as an inviting space for cultural and social interactions. Though much was left to be discussed the general consensus seemed to be Bree Street has the potential to implement many of the changes discussed and city officials are clearly willing to walk the talk.