From the Peoples Post, by Nicole McCain, 27th August 2013
After the Good Hope Subcouncil accepted a motion from ward councillor Dave Bryant to make a section of Long Street a pedestrian friendly zone, some, with previous failed attempts in mind, are asking if the idea will this time get off the ground. The proposal suggests closing the section between Wale and Watson streets, allowing only delivery vehicles, emergency vehicles and MyCiTi buses to travel this stretch.
Almost eight years ago, property development firm Indigo Properties funded a proposal to close the street over the weekend through drop down booms in an attempt to create a nightlife hub. However, this was never approved by the City of Cape Town, after an investment of thousands of Rands by Indigo and the approval of the property owners. Former ward councillor Belinda Walker did not disagree with the proposal but says she was concerned about the impact the pedestrianising of Long Street would have on traffic. “It is important to note that this proposal was received long before the MyCiTi bus system was conceptualised,” she says.
Two years ago, rumours surfaced that the road would be closed off, but at the time council had not received any proposals. At the time, the Long Street Residents’ Association did a survey of its members. The survey found residents were evenly divided on the matter, and residents still remain so. “I doubt it will happen,” says Long Street pedestrian Matthew Tyler. “It’s a busy road and it would be nice, but it will just attract more problems. Having more tourists in the area will attract issues like drug dealing and begging.”
Indigo Properties still strongly supports the pedestrianisation, says spokesperson Daisy Dickinson. “We feel strongly that it will enhance the patron experience in the area, improve road crossing safety due to decreased traffic congestion and enhance foot traffic which will therefore have a positive effect on the businesses in the area. We feel it would have an immensely positive impact on the area, businesses and ultimately the tourism industry of Cape Town as a whole,” she says.
Long Street resident Randall Wyngaard is also in favour of the pedestrianisation. “Having traffic takes away from the air of the place. It would allow shops to display their goods on the pavement. It’s nice to walk down the street. You don’t need cars here.” However, he has his doubts that the new form of public transport is the solution. “MyCiTi buses is not a factor. It doesn’t alleviate the congestion, it just causes more.” Byron Qually, the association’s chairperson, says the discussion around closing the road to vehicles has been going on for some time. He says the closure has never taken place because the “issue becomes quite polarised”.
However, Bryant believes this is the right time to introduce the pedestrian zone. “The central city is constantly changing and improving. There have also been many significant shifts in the urban environment as a result of refurbishments done in the run up to the 2010 World Cup,” he says. “Waterkant Street and St George’s Mall were certainly much more ambitious proposals and they have worked incredibly well.” The MyCiTi bus system has also made the motion more feasible, Bryant says.
“The roll out of the MyCiTi bus system over the past few years has also changed the way that we use the central city. There is now a MyCiTi route running down Long Street and there has been a steady increase in the number of people using bicycles and skateboards to get around town. This combined with all the other vehicular traffic is creating an extremely dense thoroughfare at the top of Long Street.” The motions will now be considered by the transport department for further comments. If these are positive, says Bryant, a plan will be put together for public comment.
“In the meantime the possibility exists for one or two temporary closures either in evenings or over weekends,” he says.
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