The City of London freed itself from a giant gridlock by taking cars off the road and introducing an efficient, regular and reliable bus service backed by real-time information to keep commuters posted on destinations, departures and arrivals.
This was said by UK-based urban design and transportation expert Camilla Ween during an imbizo on the second day of the 2015 EcoMobility World Festival in Sandton. Tuesday night’s imbizo formed part of a series of public dialogue sessions to be held during the month-long festival.
The imbizos give members of the public the opportunity to ask Johannesburg Executive Mayor Councillor Parks Tau, Gauteng MEC for Transport Ismail Vadi and transport experts questions about ecomobility and the government’s plans to unclog Johannesburg of traffic.
During her presentation, Ween said that the little she had seen of Johannesburg over the past few days had convinced her that the city was on track to achieving ecomobility in a shorter time than it took London.
“Pedestrians in London were treated worse than cattle. But that changed when the city adopted an integrated approach and improved its bus service. Cars were taken out and the bus journey became predictable,” Ween said.
Timothy Papandreou, San Francisco Municipal Transport Agency’s Strategic Planning and Policy Director, said it took the US city all of seven years to achieve its “overnight” success of making ecomobility a way of life. A municipal official from Mexico City congratulated the City of Johannesburg on embarking on the ecomobility journey. He said the North American city had been at it for the past 10 years and ecomobility was yielding “good results”.
A delegate from the South Korean city of Suwon, the first to host the EcoMobility World Festival in 2013, told the imbizo that incremental changes would come but communication with residents and businesses was key to easing discomfort.
MEC Vadi, who boarded the Gautrain at Park Station to the imbizo, said politicians needed to lead by example by embracing public transport. He said Gauteng Premier David Makhura, who used the Gautrain to work after publicly pledging to do so at the official launch of the festival, was pleasantly surprised that it was quicker than his blue-lights escort.
“But enforcement needs to be heightened because there is a blatant violation of the rules. Even police officials are some of the culprits who park on cycling lanes. A dedicated team is needed to enforce and monitor compliance,” MEC Vadi said.
Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, Creative Director of EcoMobility World Festivals, said young people in Germany and the US were no longer aspiring to own cars and were now exploring ways of car-sharing.
Mayor Tau, the festival’s host, said infrastructure investment, safety, communication, partnerships with key roleplayers and buy-in from residents were key ingredients of the city’s ecomobility future.
“Every day more than 10 000 pedestrians from Alex have to dice with death as they compete with vehicles on Grayston Drive. The City is building a pedestrian bridge over the M1 freeway for safer accessibility. We are constructing more cycling and walking lanes and extending the BRT network to drive our city into the future,” Mayor Tau said.