Eighteen months ago, Open Streets launched a new working group called Street Minds. The goal was to create trans-disciplinary spaces in which people from all backgrounds and professions come together to reimagine and learn about street design— from technocrats to local activists. In the short time that the initiative has existed, Street Minds has evolved quite organically. It began by Street Minds hosting meetings on a monthly basis to discuss various topics. But has now transitioned to producing four or five carefully curated events in the course of the year. This format will allow for an increased level of participatory learning, in-depth discussion and a focus on driving change in street design. Each event will centre around a specific theme, and the projected themes for 2018 are as follows— Cycling Cultures, Township Economies, Accessibility of Urban Space, The Real Cost of Road Fatalities, and Transcending Street Design Legacies.
1. Cycling Cultures - Getting more people, of all backgrounds, cycling more often, for all journeys
In an era of dramatic climate change making cycling easy might seem like an obvious tactic in creating more sustainable streets and urban spaces. However, cycling infrastructure is an incredibly complex area of street design. Moreover, when we talk about cycling, we are not simply talking about bicycles or special lanes, but we are talking about the people who ride those bicycles. Because wherever there are people, there are unique cultures and a diverse range of needs. If Cape Town is to transition to a cycling-dominated city— wherein people are liberated to manage transport on their own terms and carve out their own paths— we must address the reasons why some people cycle and some people don’t. The discussion will centre on those who cycle least and why, as taking on the immense barriers to cycling is necessary if we are to creatively and effectively build a cycling city here in Cape Town.
2. Township Street Economies
An essential consideration of cutting edge street design is how streets themselves can foster local economies and unlock opportunities. Recent investigations into streets at the micro-level in post apartheid, low-income neighbourhoods reveals a rich and nuanced view on the role streets play in building a society that does not rely solely on a singular CBD. Through this event, we aim to investigate the status of street economies in particular townships and the ways in which thoughtful, participatory design can reveal opportunities for people to truly thrive.
3. Accessibility of Urban Spaces
In reflecting on the geographies of Cape Town, we must ask ourselves— who gets to go where? And, why? Whether people do not have enough fare, or live too far from a train or bus station, or cannot navigate sidewalks because they are not paved for wheelchair users— there are an infinite number of reasons why many people are excluded from urban spaces. For a truly inclusive Cape Town, we must identify what these hurdles are in our city with an incredibly diverse range of people in mind. Through this event, we hope to illuminate both the accessibility issues of Cape Town and begin to imagine a future for our city that includes everyone.
4.The Real Cost of Road Fatalities
While it is easy to become distracted by new highways and infrastructure developments, we often forget about the consequences of such car-focused design. South Africa has amongst the highest road fatality records in the world, with more than 14,000 people dying on the country’s roads every year. Nearly forty people die every day, and that does not even touch the surface of minor accidents and injuries. Through this event, we would like to investigate our investment in roads with hard facts at hand in order to reimagine what roads would look like if we prioritised safety in street design.
5. Transcending Street Design Legacies - Thinking ‘street design’ beyond our borders
Especially in South Africa, the evidence of street design legacies of decades past remain entrenched . Yet, there are many countries that have successfully overcome their legacies of spatial planning to create benefits to safety, urban quality, and street use. Comparing the experiences of Dutch and British street design, we will investigate how those design processes, standards and criteria differ from South African practices. Together, we will cultivate critical thinking on how to move South Africa away from the current go-to US-centered planning approach
Street Minds believes that these spaces of dialogue and learning are essential if we are to implement street design tactics that meaningfully address Cape Town’s history and future. As this is an Open Streets initiative dedicated to the public, we invite you to join us for each of these events, bringing friends and colleagues along with you. Together, we will influence design by the people for the people.
Photo by Stephen Alfreds