Awarded for car-less roads

2015-08-11 06:01
Open Street’s Marcela Guerrero Casas has been named one of the Mail and Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans. 


PHOTO: Rory Williams

Open Street’s Marcela Guerrero Casas has been named one of the Mail and Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans. PHOTO: Rory Williams

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For the last three years, Marcela Guerrero Casas has been “raising” what she calls her child.

She has watched Open Street, an organisation that transforms how city streets are perceived and used by creating car-free streets for a few hours at a time and inviting people to use the space creatively, grow, fall down and take it’s first tentative steps.

Guerrero Casas was recently recognised by the Mail andamp; Guardian newspaper on its list of 200 Young South Africans – an honour made even more special because she was not born here.

“When they phoned to say I had been nominated, I told them I had not been born here and they said it didn’t matter because the nomination is about making South Africa a better place. It’s so rewarding. You feel so warm inside,” she says.

Planted rootsGuerrero Casas left Columbia at 17 to study in the United States. And although she still describes Columbia as home and frequently returns to visit, her roots are firmly planted here, she says.

Open Street can also call Columbia home, as it is based on a movement started there in the 1970s. 120km of streets are turned into pedestrian areas every Sunday.

More than 400 cities across the world now run similar projects.

First moves“I don’t race and I don’t know anything about bicycles, but I’ve always commuted by cycling. When I moved to Cape Town, I realised that it wasn’t always safe to do so and a dialogue started with other cyclists,” she says.

This grew into Open Street, and the first event saw Lower Main Road in Observatory closed to traffic for a day in 2012.

“That first Open Street was a highlight. We were expecting around 50 people. When we saw so many people there, I actually shed a few tears,” she says.

The movement has since spread to Langa and the city centre.

“Hundreds of cyclists rode from the city centre to Langa for Open Street. When they arrived, they were all riding in a line and you couldn’t see the end. It was like a glimpse of the future,” she recalls.

However, the organisation has faced a number of challenges, and has “fallen down” a few times, Guerrero Casas says. Funding and red tape make holding any event like cycling the Tour de France.

“We’re working with the City to find ways to use less resources,” she says. “I hope in 10 years’ time Open Street events will be as regular as a Saturday market so that people won’t even see them as events.”

For the last three years, Marcela Guerrero Casas has been “raising” what she calls her child.

She has watched Open Street, an organisation that transforms how city streets are perceived and used by creating car-free streets for a few hours at a time and inviting people to use the space creatively, grow, fall down and take it’s first tentative steps.

Guerrero Casas was recently recognised by the Mail & Guardian newspaper on its list of 200 Young South Africans – an honour made even more special because she was not born here. “When they phoned to say I had been nominated, I told them I had not been born here and they said it didn’t matter because the nomination is about making South Africa a better place. It’s so rewarding. You feel so warm inside,” she says.

Guerrero Casas left Columbia at 17 to study in the United States. And although she still describes Columbia as home and frequently returns to visit, her roots are firmly planted here, she says.

Open Street can also call Columbia home, as it is based on a movement there from the 1970s. 120km of streets are turned into pedestrian areas every Sunday. More than 400 cities across the world run similar projects.

“I don’t race and I don’t know anything about bicycles, but I’ve always commuted by cycling. When I moved to Cape Town, I realised that it wasn’t always safe to do so and a dialogue started with other cyclists,” she says. This grew into Open Street, and the first event saw Lower Main Road in Observatory closed to traffic for a day in 2012.

“That first Open Street was a highlight. We were expecting around 50 people. When we saw so many people there, I actually shed a few tears,” she says.

The movement has since spread to Langa and the city centre. “Hundreds of cyclists rode from the city centre to Langa for Open Street. When they arrived, they were all riding in a line and you couldn’t see the end. It was like a glimpse of the future,” she recalls.

However, the organisation has faced a number of challenges, and has “fallen down” a few times, Guerrero Casas says. Lack of funding and red tape make holding any event difficult

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