Where’s the NMT in TfCT? Cape launches Transport Authority with cyclists relegated to mere ‘performance’

Non-motorised transport is not truly taken seriously by the City of Cape Town, say NMT advocates in the wake of today’s much-hyped launch of ‘Transport for Cape Town’. “Cyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair users and skateboarders continue to be seen as recreational or worse – ‘performance’ – and at the launch were banished to the confines of an orchestrated parade by the City”.

The distribution of space and the access to transport are big challenges in a city like Cape Town given its geography but most importantly given its history. In Cape Town we are still plagued with social, economic and cultural inequality. Many of the citizens remain disenfranchised and feel little or no sense of ownership or belonging in the City.

Today’s launch of the City of Cape Town’s Transport Authority [18 October 2012] reiterated the political, social and economic importance of integrated transport, and the pivotal role it can play in creating a truly “open opportunity” society, and readdressing the imbalances of the past.

Despite the adoption of Non-Motorised Transport” (cycling, walking, skateboarding) or “Active Mobility” as referred to by Councilor Brett Herron [Mayoral Committee Member for Transport Roads and Stormwater], as means of increasing mobility to the urban poor and alleviating poverty, it was mentioned only once in today’s proceedings. Whether this was accidental or simply a reflection of the low priority it is on the agenda of transport in the city is debatable; nevertheless worth pointing out to encourage the discussion.

How can we effectively promote the use of roads, and streets by people when these activities are not considered a form of ‘transport’? They continue to be seen as recreational or worse, ‘performance’ and are banished to the confines of an orchestrated parade by the City of Cape Town (where cyclists in Lycra and matching cycling-team tops denoted bicycle commuters…].

If we are to seriously introduce sustainable transportation that is inclusive and accessible to all, then all interest groups must be taken into account and engaged. Indeed, cycling is important and for it to become a form of commuting it must be seen, discussed and portrayed as form of transport. Likewise, if we are to demystify the image mainstream media has created of skateboards, then we need to allocate the space both physical on the road but also in discussions such as this to ensure the perception is changed and policies follow.

If we are to claim our public space, particularly roads, then citizens need to be engaged and welcome to move with freedom and safety in the city. It is commendable that the bus, train and taxi systems are being brought under one authority, but we need to allow and encourage the use of non-polluting forms of transport which, as demonstrated in other cities around the world, have an endless number of benefits ranging from health to social cohesion, and hold enormous potential in a city like cape town to become a link across social and economic divides.

Transport is power and as expressed by Councillor Herron today, addressing transport ultimately “addresses the legacy of apartheid.” If the roads are to become democratic spaces then non-motorised transport needs to be incorporated as part and parcel of the transport agenda in the City beyond once-off events or parades.

Marco Morgan (National Skate Collective) & Marcela Guerrero Casas (Open Streets)



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  1. 18 Oct Brett Herron Brett Herron ‏@brettherron
    @OpenStreetsCT significance of TA launch is more about acquiring authority of all modes to achieve integration. NMT is already in hand & NB!

    18 Oct Brett Herron Brett Herron ‏@brettherron
    @JustMobility it is absurd to measure City’s commitment to NMT as equally NB mode by counting how many times it was mentioned in speeches.

  2. Marié Jansen I challenge any of the powers that be to see what it entails to use a bicycle for transport. My odometer speaks volumes alone! Their attitude is an insult.
    Thursday at 21:17 · Like

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