That might not necessarily be a scientifically proven hypothesis, but according to my friend Kristy, this is what streets in Johannesburg mean to her since she became an avid runner.
This is the type of statement that fuels the open streets cause; and it has encouraged me to quantify the amount of time I'm spending on the street every day. This might no be such a useful exercise given my inability to walk long distances at the moment, but it does invite me to observe in detail what happens when I step onto that fascinating unrehearsed stage. How the city unfolds is truly a spectacle not to be missed and yet we so seldom walk out of our buildings, houses or most unfortunately, our vehicles
Walking along Heerengracht St this morning, I started to imagine what the central island on that stunningly ample road would look like if people came out to have their lunch or simply to take a break throughout the day. It might perhaps stop being a desert island. Clearly, populating and bringing such places to life is something urban designers and experts in the City grapple with; but it seems we all need to contribute in our own way to fill in the blank so to speak.
The Open Streets working group wants to help along that process and has accordingly programmed a Walk & Talk series in 2013. Next Wednesday (23 January), the group will lead a group of special guests along Bree street to imagine together what is required to turn it into a genuine open street that embeds respect for people regardless of who they are and how they move.
A recent twitter exchange confirmed many would like to see Bree St as a zone for non-motorized transport exclusively, and while that might sound like a lofty goal; there are steps that can take us there. In the coming months for instance a cultural market will take place inviting local businesses and residents along Bree as well as the Bo-Kaap to come together on the street. It will not only be a market though; this event will effectively plant the seed for many more Open Street days and events; and hopefully a permanent Open Street in the near future!
The tour is the first activity of several this year which will engage friends of Open Streets to share ideas, experience together and walk the talk, and Bree street will certainly help pave the way for a street revolution of sorts in Cape Town. We will start by walking along it to learn what is already happening and to explore what else can be done to maximize its potential. Considering the number of developments taking place and the great interest it has raised, it is easy to imagine Bree Street becoming the first genuine open streets (as defined by Capetoninans). If you want to join the walk, please email firstname.lastname@example.org as space is limited