We hosted our first Open Streets Exchange in Cape Town from 22 to 28 October 2018. Nineteen participants from 11 countries across Africa took part, as well as representatives from the Exchange’s co-hosts, UN-Habitat and GIZ. The Exchange proved to be a deeply profound learning experience for all of us and our Managing Director and Co-Founder, Marcela Guerrero Casas, shared her reflections about the week with URBANET.
Using Open Streets Woodstock as a convening 'excuse', the objective of this gathering was to facilitate a practical knowledge exchange amongst individuals working in mobility and transport; and to create a platform to explore the potential for Open Streets and similar initiatives in other African cities.
Immersion in Cape Town and Open Streets
The programme was a combination of events that invited participants to listen, talk and do. Each day was packed with planned activities, designed to introduce them to every aspect of devising, planning and implementing an Open Streets day. It also enabled the group to become fully immersed in the thinking behind Open Streets as an organisation.
Unpacking Open Streets
Lecturers from the Centre for Transport Studies at UCT laid out a high-level view of non-motorised transport (NMT) in African cities, and also discussed the current environment in South Africa. Participants, too, were offered a chance to present the status of NMT in their own cities. These presentations revealed that many cities share many of the same barriers to building a culture of NMT: lack of infrastructure, lack of political or administrative will, dependency on cars, socio-economic issues that force people to walk in unsafe environments, social and economic exclusion — among others.
In workshops and presentations, participants were introduced to the Open Streets toolkit. By exposing the ‘back-end’ of Open Streets, we were able to show the many and varied aspects of our work. This included the complexities of hosting Open Streets Days, as well as highlighting the gaps in local policies and challenges to improve non-motorised transport in Cape Town specifically; but also in South Africa generally.
The group was also introduced to the inner workings of local NMT policies, with presentations from representatives from the City of Cape Town's Transport and Urban Development Authority (TDA). Those presentations highlighted the various challenges in getting a city moving in the unique South African context — where apartheid spatial planning policies have not yet been resolved, and endemic infrastructural and administrative failures continue to constrain progress in this regard.
A lively presentation from Gail Jennings, a Cape Town-based street enthusiast and researcher, also laid out a history of Cape Town’s urban design and city planning. This revealed the layers of history that have had an impact on the city’s public transport and NMT offerings over the years.
Closing streets to open streets
The Open Streets Exchange culminated with Open Streets Woodstock on 28 October, and so, with that as a ‘live’ example, participants were introduced to the more technical aspects of an Open Streets Day. Taking a walk along the route earmarked for Open Streets Woodstock, and in further workshops, the group explored the nuts and bolts of planning an Open Streets Day.
This component included detailed presentations about the traffic management processes and considerations that needed to be factored in. Closing off a main artery requires extensive planning, persuasion and preparation. With the support and participation of our colleagues at HHO Consulting Engineers and Trans2 Logistics Solutions, we discussed the various considerations, decisions and negotiations that need to be managed. Consultation with residents was just one factor. Others, such as access for emergency services, security, optimal length of route, signage and communication were all aspects that make up the success of an Open Streets Day.
Innovation in NMT was also a focus of the programme. Representatives from transport-related startups GoMetro, MellowCabs and WhereIsMyTransport introduced their businesses, demonstrating how innovation and creative problem-solving can address some of the more complex mobility challenges in our cities.
Place-making in different parts
One of the threads of the work that we undertake is to consider how Open Streets can contribute to place-making in Cape Town’s neighbourhoods.
To understand the role that Open Streets could potentially play in reimagining different parts of a city, we took the group to Mitchells Plan; where we have hosted Open Streets days. We also organised bicycle rides in Khayelitsha with ABCD Concepts and in Sea Point with Up Cycles. Cycling around Khayelitsha, as well as the Sea Point Promenade, participants were able to experience existing and contrasting infrastructure in different parts of the city.
Experiencing Open Streets Woodstock
Open Streets Woodstock opened at 9am on a blistering hot day. OS Exchange participants were invited to partake in the early-morning set up for the day, and then to freely explore the full extent of the day’s activities. This offered them a chance to experience the day in action, from opening to close.
By the end of the exchange, participants had been submerged in everything that makes up Open Streets Cape Town, from our past, to our present and our dreams for the future.
On the morning of Monday 29 October, before everyone returned to their home cities, there was a real sense of friendship and the conviction that great potential lies ahead in growing this network of street, NMT activists and "drivers" of the Open Streets movement across the African continent.
- Ahmed Abdo Mahmoud, Manager of the Design Section, Cairo Governor’s Bureau, Cairo, Egypt
- Amma Oduro-Dankwah, Country Manager, Amend Road Safety, Accra, Ghana
- Ayikai Poswayo, Programme Director, Amend Road Safety, Accra, Ghana
- Belinda Khoase, Project Assistant, Durban Green Corridor, Durban, South Africa
- Christopher Kang’ombe, mayor, Kitwe City Council, Kitwe, Zambia
- Constant Cap, Urban Planner and Tactical Urbanist, Stockholm Environment Institute, Kenya Alliance of Residents Association, Nairobi Placemaking Network and Naipolitans, Nairobi, Kenya
- Enos Baluku, Transport Planner, Ministry of Works and Transport, Kampala, Uganda
- Evans Otieno, Youth Community Leader, Dandora Transformation League, Nairobi, Kenya
- Gilberto Quissanga, GIS Analyst, UN Habitat, Luanda, Angola
- Hosea Omole, Member, Public Space Network, Nairobi, Kenya
- Irene Messiba, Deputy Director, Ministry of Transport, Accra, Ghana
- Jiregna Hirpa Debelo, Deputy General Director, Road Traffic Management Agency, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- Lerato Mabaso, Operations Manager, City of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
- Neels Basson, Non-motorised Transport: Integration, Designs, Standards and Guidelines, Department of Transport, Pretoria, South Africa
- Nonhlanhla Khumalo, Local Economic Development and Tourism Manager, Kwadukuza Municipality, Kwadukuza, South Africa
- Richard Hamba, Programme Representatives, Training, Education and Empowerment for Neighbourhood Sustainable, Kampala, Uganda
- Seble Samuel, Geographer and Storytellers, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
- Stefan van Niekerk, Senior Specialist Strategic Urban Designer (all regions) and Regional Planner (Region F), City of Johannesburg Development Planning Department: City Transformation Unit, Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa
- Temesgen Tigistu, Project Management Division Head, Road and Transport Bureau (AARTB), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Photo by Mik Motala Photography for Makhulu