Joburg says Ecomobility good for future

Friday, October 9, 2015

Ordinary motorists took to social media to express their frustration as public transport, cyclists and pedestrian were given preference on the streets of Sandton this week.

But the City of Johannesburg says it’s all for a good cause. The City has been hosting the second EcoMobility World Festival in Sandton since the beginning of October, which also coincide with the national Transport Month.

The month-long global event aims to promote the use of non-motorised transport to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decongest the city and improve the environment.

Joburg is the second to host the world festival, with the aim to decongest major cities by reducing the number of private cars on the roads and allow free movement of people around cities.

Organisers says EcoMobility is designed to “hand over” the cities back to the people, giving them the freedom to cycle, walk, jog and stroll freely. It is also intended to reduce the amount of air pollution and make the world a cleaner place to live in.

According to the City of Joburg, over 100 000 cars move in and out of Sandton between 7:30am and 8:30am daily. At the end of each day, it is estimated that about 80 000 cars enter and leave the Sandton central business district and the number of commuters in the area grows by 3.4% per year.

The City has defended its decision to host the festival, citing long term benefits.

“Sandton will grind to a halt, unless major interventions are made. Time lost in traffic is revenue loss for business,” it said.

During the launch of the festival, Johannesburg City Mayor Parks Tau said congestion in Sandton city contributed to the economic inefficiency that the city needed to overcome.

“As it stands, the economic impact that results from congestion in the whole of South Africa is over R1 billion, and Johannesburg accounts for the highest loss with more than 1.5 million vehicles registered across the metropolitan.

“As the city’s economic hub and Africa’s richest square mile, Sandton is under threat of becoming a giant parking lot and subsequently collapsing our economic well-being.

“We need to enable the economy to flourish by having less people who spend a lot of time in their cars instead of being productive. We don’t want people stuck in their cars because of congestion,” said Mayor Tau.

A number of roads in Sandton have been closed to allow cyclists, pedestrians and runners “to regain their freedom on the roads”.

Residents and those who work in Sandton City have been encouraged to make use of public transport.

Speaking at the official opening of the festival this week, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters also encouraged South Africans to use public transport rather than their own private cars during the EcoMobility World Festival 2015.

“Walking is cool. Cycling is cool. Let us make it possible to stay healthy. If you walk or cycle you can reduce your weight, and reduce the chances of getting diseases.”

Minister Peters said the event also showed that South Africa had a national climate change response strategy.

“We are committed to sustainable development. We are committed to ensure that we build cities of tomorrow, by making sure that we can move with the new technology. We also want to make sure that this technology will create jobs for our people,” she said.

Mayor Tau said the EcoMobility World Festival is an introduction to the future.

“We see the Ecomobility World Festival as a precursor to the future of Sandton and Johannesburg,” he said.

Amongst dignitaries who graced the launch this week were Korean Mayor for the City of Suwon, Yeom Tae-Young. The City of Suwon was the first to host the Festival in 2014.

Yeom commended the brave step taken by Mayor Tau and the City of Johannesburg.

While some were frustrated by the inconvenience of not using their cars, a number of people in have taken to social media to express their excitement about the festival. Many expressed the joy of walking and using other forms of transport. Many shared their pictures using hashtags #Ecomobilityfestival and #Joburgecomobility.

The City of Johannesburg said it’s investing significant significantly in public transport infrastructure and this investment includes the introduction of the Bus Rapid Transit system a few years ago. Cycling lanes in the Sandton CBD have also been expanded. But all of this needs to be accompanied by behavioural change, something officials said motivated hosting the festival.

During the festival, there will be dedicated test track to be used by the public to test and ride the different offerings on display.

“The exhibition is contextualised in South Arica and narrates Johannesburg’s distinct commuter history. It highlights the impact of apartheid policies on spatial planning and explores how these inequalities are being redressed through the City of Johannesburg’s ‘Corridors of Freedom’,” said the City.

The exhibition also hosts over 30 national and international exhibitors for a month-long, interactive display of mobility. - SAnews.gov.za

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