Boom, but safety gloom

2016-03-29 06:00
 First Thursdays brings thousands of visitors to the CBD, placing strain on services like cleaning and safety. PHOTO: CCID

First Thursdays brings thousands of visitors to the CBD, placing strain on services like cleaning and safety. PHOTO: CCID

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As First Thursday events in the City Bowl become more popular, there are concerns about keeping the growing number of visitors safe.

These concerns were raised at a recent ward 77 meeting, which discussed the need for measures to improve pedestrian safety during the events.

First Thursdays is designed to attract residents and visitors to the city centre, especially those people who might not otherwise visit it, explains Rob Kane, chairperson of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID).

For CBD retailers who stay open for the monthly event, the success has been substantial, with a number of venues reporting record crowds, says Tasso Evangelinos, CCID chief operating officer.

But the visitors do place a strain on resources, such as cleaning and security, as extra services must be organised to manage the crowds on nights where the CBD didn’t previously have such vast numbers, Evangelinos says.

“We love the First Thursdays concept and really applaud the movement, but some of the venues get very crowded and patrons spill onto the pavements and even the streets. We do believe more pressure should be put on the venues to ensure the safety of these patrons,” he says.

“As the CCID we’re very happy to advise them on how they can do this responsibly and in terms of City of Cape Town bylaws to ensure they don’t ultimately receive fines of one nature or another, be these for spilling out onto public spaces beyond which they are legally allowed to trade or enabling their patrons to drink in public,” he says.

Garreth Bloor, Mayco member for tourism, events and economic development, says the City’s event office decided an event permit was not necessary.

“It was essentially a campaign by businesses in a defined geographical area to encourage patrons to come to the area on the first Thursday of the month.

“There was no special activity (such as a concert), other than normal business activities that the various businesses had licences to conduct. The patrons would be encouraged to go to formal establishments, like galleries and restaurants, and not public areas or places where temporary structures must be constructed to accommodate the activity and no single venue should exceed the number of people permitted in their population certificate,” he says.

Brett Herron, Mayco member for transport, believes First Thursdays is not an event as much as a cultural experience, created by various places of cultural interest spread throughout the CBD.

“The Cape Town CBD attracts thousands of people every day, among them a significant number of pedestrians. There should therefore be no need for any road closures or further pedestrian safety measures to cater specifically for a lesser number of visitors on the evenings of First Thursdays. Even if First Thursdays eventually attracted the same number of people as the CBD attracts on a business day, there would be no need for a special plan for it. If people’s experiences of First Thursdays leads to feedback that in turn leads to improvements in infrastructure and operations, then this would be to the benefit of all CBD visitors,” he says.

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