2012 was a big year for Open Streets in South Africa. It saw the first official attempt to roll out open streets in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. The seed was planted and 2013 will undoubtedly bear some fruit. With a formalized working group that includes a number of experts in urban design, transport, cycling, social development, communications and advertising, a strategy was set in place on 21 December, 2012.
Open Streets will become a legal entity and although it will seek to learn from international best practice, it will rely heavily on the direction its constituency, the Friends of Open Streets, will provide. The ultimate purpose is to help design and create streets that embed and generate respect for each other, regardless of who we are and how we move.
The aim is certainly ambitious and calls for a genuine commitment by a wide array of stakeholders. Cyclists in Cape Town have made remarkable strides in raising awareness about the need for better infrastructure and policies; notwithstanding; the recent tragic death of one of South Africa's most inspiring cyclists Burry Stander is a grotesque reminder of the dire conditions cyclists continue to face all around the country.
It is a mammoth challenge and the solutions are not simple. How do we create the type of streets that enable us all to behave with respect for human dignity. Certainly sidewalks, cycle lanes and other forms of infrastructure are a step in the right direction; but a genuine transformation of our streets requires a multiple number of changes that range from city bylaws to individual behavior shifts.
With this in mind, an open invitation is hereby presented to all in Cape Town and beyond to become friends of Open Streets. We all have an opportunity and a responsibility to be active citizens. It all begins with mutual respect and the street is the first place where we encounter the other.
There will be a number of activities planned ranging from ciclovia-type events to discussions with policy makers. The first, a Walk & Talk is expected to take place on 15 January where plans and ideas will be shared with all Friends of Open Streets. Please contact us if you are interested in attending firstname.lastname@example.org