Sandton goes car-free for a month

The Sandton CBD will be closed to cars during the month-long EcoMobility World Festival over October. Instead, people will be encouraged to use public transport, cycle and walk. Johannesburg hopes they will see the benefits of going car-free and that there will be a permanent shift.

Garden-Court-Bus-Stop-Rendering---text This image is a rendering of the Garden Court precinct in Sandton and how it would look like if people used less motorised means of transportation. (Image: EcoMobility Festival)


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Ray Maota

South Africa has a vision for its future known as the National Development Plan (NDP) or Vision 2030. To support national growth and development targets, Johannesburg, as the economic hub of the country, has developed its Growth and Development Strategy (GDS) 2040.

With the start of the EcoMobility World Festival on 1 October in Sandton, the north-eastern business hub of Johannesburg, both Vision 2030 and the GDS come together. The festival runs from 1 October to 30 October 2015.

The EcoMobility World Festival will enable residents and visitors to experience a car-free precinct of the future. A core area of the Sandton CBD will be closed to regular traffic for the duration of the festival. A comprehensive traffic management plan is in place to minimise the temporary impact of disruptions and to keep the public informed about alternative arrangements.

One of the aims of the EcoMobility World Festival is to showcase transport system where public transport, walking and cycling are the modes of choice.

This links with Johannesburg’s GDS 2040, which envisions the metro as a smart city. A smart city is an environmentally friendly city created out of a combination of concepts and technologies. These include the enhancement of energy efficiency, and water and waste management, coupled with the conservation of resources.

Nationally, South Africa has made bold commitments to reduce its carbon emissions, a major cause of climate change. The government has determined to reduce 2009 emissions levels by 34% by 2020, and 42% by 2025. The NDP acknowledges that this will require a move away from the country’s current dependence on fossil fuels, towards a more sustainable development path.

“The festival will demonstrate to the world that an eco-mobile future is possible and that public transport, walking and cycling can be accessible, safe and attractive,” said Johannesburg Executive Mayor Mpho Parks Tau.

“We want to close off certain streets in Sandton, our second largest CBD, to car traffic and instead use these lanes for public transport, walking, cycling and other forms of eco-mobility during the entire Transport Month.”

The Sandton CBD faced levels of congestion that, in the city’s opinion, were unacceptable, Tau added. Unless there was an intervention, Sandton would turn into a parking lot, as had been projected by studies done by Joburg.

“Per capita, Johannesburg is the highest emitter on the African continent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. We’ve made a commitment with our international partners and governments around the world to ensure that we reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

Migrate to public transport

Lisa Seftel, Joburg’s executive director of transport, said October had been set aside to migrate Sandton motorists to public transport. The city aims to get 30% of drivers to use public transport.

Statistics hold that more than 85 000 cars carrying about 120 000 people move around the precinct during peak traffic times every day – 70% of these are private cars. “Eco-mobility is really about eco-friendly ways of travelling, which we in the city regard as walking, cycling, and using public transport so that there are low emissions and we’re able to reduce congestion,” Seftel told business news website BizNews.

“One of the important objectives of the executive mayor and why he really wanted the EcoMobility Festival to be in Sandton is because we also need to decongest Sandton.”

People were being given a chance to experience public transport, walking, and cycling, Seftel added. The city hoped they would see its benefits and there would be a permanent shift.

During the festival, the city is providing alternative modes of transport to Sandton.

An eco-mobile city:

  • Aims to reduce the need for motorised mobility;
  • Ensures that transport facilities and areas are accessible to all its users;
  • Ensures that an appropriate variety of modes of transport are available for all its users;
  • Encourages travellers to walk, bicycle, and take public transport;
  • Continually aims to encourage the reduction of resources use for travel; and,
  • Continually aims to improve its performance in planning and delivering eco-mobility.

The festival is taking place during October Transport Month, an annual national initiative. Its core focus is infrastructure for the different modes of transport, including public and non-motorised transport. This year, under the theme “Together we move South Africa forward”, the emphasis will extend to job creation, programmes for youth and women, and road safety.

Minister Jeff Radebe, the minister in the Presidency responsible for planning, monitoring and evaluation, said October Transport Month was also an opportunity to increase road safety awareness.