When South Africa announced its plans to host an EcoMobility festival in Africa’s richest square mile, Sandton, some were skeptical. Nonetheless, the EcoMobility festival is set to start in October and Sandton’s residents can attest that the city is as ready as it will ever be. The same cannot be said for its residents though, as many of them are expectedly not looking forward to navigating the busy streets without their cars for an entire month.
Sipho Nhlapo, Operations Manager for Mobility and Freight from the Johannesburg Roads Agency, has said in response to accusations of the festival closing down Sandton, “We are not closing down Sandton. We are changing the way you move in Sandton.” A loop (the pink route on the map below) will be created around Sandton which will encompass Fifth, Rivonia and joining up with Fredman Drive.
The city of Johannesburg is different from the Korean city of Suwon which was able to get rid of cars completely for a whole month, and this – among other factors – has necessitated a modification to the community’s plan for its EcoMobility festival.
In what is perhaps the most important modification to the initial plan, the Central Business District (CBD) of Sandton will not completely ban cars for logistic reasons. The organisers of the festival have instead focused on encouraging people to leave their private cars at home and use alternative eco-friendly means of transportation. Sandton roads have undergone major reconstruction as sidewalks have been expanded and cycle lanes created, leaving very little road for cars. Major road construction in South Africa has been made with only cars in mind, leaving out pedestrian and cyclers’ safety. The festival aims to achieve decongestion of the road through what is termed “an effective use of road space”, which caters to sidewalks and cycle lanes and encourages the use of public transport.
These are a few things to expect from Sandton’s festival.
- Initial traffic congestion
For the ecomobility festival, many lanes in the CBD will be closed while extra lanes will be available to public transport. The festival aims to reduce congestion and encourage motorists to use buses, cycle lanes and walk ways for the month. However this could turn out to be counter-productive as the closure of roads could create the traffic congestion the festival seeks to reduce. Johannesburg’s transport head Lisa Seftel stated in an interview that congestion on the first day of the festival might be unavoidable as people settle into the new arrangement.
The festival hopes that residents will be discouraged by the congestion and take advantage of the alternative means of transportation that they have provided.
- Modified travel plans
Moving in and out of Sandton in the month of October will require an amount of patience and planning. There are designated cycle lanes, eco-friendly buses and tuk-tuks to transport people from nearby park and rides and within the Sandton area.
The city council has also provided an app which will guide residents as they navigate their way through the city this next month.
The CBD of Sandton could be looking at increased business opportunities over the next month as the city council is encouraging companies, organisations and individuals to take advantage of the available street space arrange events, which are linked to EcoMobility. Such events include healthy food festivals, public art exhibitions with a focus on sustainability and ecomobility, outdoor gyms, fun runs, and music festivals.
The City will provide more buses and minibus taxis as well as arrange for pop up cycle paths so that people can cycle safely. It is also seeking companies who run tuk-tuks and similar services (especially those that are eco-friendly) to transport people from nearby park and rides and within the Sandton area.
- A sustainable environment
Sandton’s development over the last few years has progressed at an alarmingly high rate which creates more congestion in the already congested business district. More importantly, developers have ventured into “green developments” in a bid to create a sustainable environment. However, these developments can be utilised efficiently because the district of Sandton is presently not favourable to sustainability and eco-mobility.
The festival, through its public and eco-friendly transport channels such as bicycles and tuk-tuks, will encourage a sustainable environment for the residents. Sandton will become de-congested, maintain a sustainable transport system, and develop an active street life. People will walk on the streets; interact with their neighbours, and get to know each other. A healthier lifestyle encouraged by exercising will be possible.
The EcoMobility Festival will bring to Sandton projects that will increase the use of public transport and make cycling safe, attractive and comfortable. With the support from citizens and companies in Sandton, the city will show that commuting without a car is possible and comes with benefits including a healthy lifestyle and reduced carbon emissions.
- An exciting list of programmes
The EcoMobility Festival includes a list of events in line with its objectives, starting from 30th September, 2015.
30 Sep – Freedom rides at the IDC Conference Centre
1 Oct – EcoMobility Fashion Show
4 Oct – Streets Alive Opening Ceremony
5 Oct – Inauguration of Electric Charging Station
11 Oct – Road Safety Family Day
11 Oct – Freedom Ride Jozi
17 Oct – Spoken Word Festival
17&18 Oct – Sports Weekend
23 Oct – Discovery Duathlon
24 Oct – Driver Appreciation
30 Oct – Critical Mass
31 Oct – World Cup Rugby Final Fan Park and closing ceremony
31 Oct – Jo’burg Carnival
Nobody said it would the easy. A lot of eyes are already rolling at the potential for the festival’s success. The transport head of Sandton, Lisa Sefiel has said of the festival, “It is an experiment. Will it work? We don’t know… until it happens.”