Make space for revellers

2017-06-20 09:53

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Road closures are being considered to make First Thursdays safer for pedestrians.

The popularity of First Thursdays, a monthly free art and cultural experience in the CBD, has led to an increase in other night-time activity in the CBD, notably at entertainment venues on Bree Street between Strand and Wale streets, says Brett Herron, Mayco member for transport and urban ­development.

“The intensity of pedestrian activity on Bree Street on the first Thursday evening of the month increases the potential for conflict with cars and has prompted a proposal to close this section of street to create a car-free space. The intention of the closure is to improve safety and make the area more attractive to walking,” he says.

“The closure would occur after the evening peak traffic period and would not affect the movement of commuters out of the CBD.”
Muneeb Hendricks, safety and security manager of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID), agrees that roads need to be closed during those ­evenings.

First Thursdays attracts thousands of people who quickly fill up the venues, he says.

“Once these venues are full, the crowds begin to encroach on the area outside the venue and sometimes take over the road, actually blocking traffic, restricting car access, and potentially placing both patrons and motorists in harm’s way. To exacerbate the situation, many of the patrons are indulging in alcoholic beverages and may not have the quickest reflexes which could also result in serious accidents,” he explains.

Road closures will only enhance the event, Hendricks believes.

“Participants would be able to walk freely in a safe environment. It will also make it easier for law enforcement agencies to patrol and keep an eye on the event and the safety of all concerned as people will no longer have to crowd in packed masses onto pavements.”

Ward councillor Dave Bryant confirms he has met with organisers and businesses involved in the First Thursday events. He says City of Cape Town officials have committed to supply the infrastructure necessary for the closures, with the CCID offering logistical support, on condition that the businesses involved cover the necessary safety and security requirements.

Hendricks says the CCID has offered to collect all road closure equipment, supply CCID public safety personnel to close off streets and then manage a security team, funded by the venues, for specific areas.

The road closures have not yet been approved, stresses Herron.

Herron explains that City officials are currently completing the administrative process required for a road closure.

“The City has offered the use of its event traffic signage for the road closure, if approved.

“The signage would be deployed under the supervision of CCID security managers by additional security staff funded by a coalition of Bree Street business owners who will benefit from the closure,” he says.

Hendricks adds that events such First Thursdays bring vibrancy and life back to the CBD in the early evening.

“They also enable traders and retailers to stay open way later than what they normally would as there is a clientele for their offerings,” he says.

“Plus, of course, it showcases the CBD to many people who would not normally come into our area and shows how much the CBD has to offer these days.”

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