Rediscovering home

2016-04-05 06:00
Thousands of people took to Merrydale Avenue to reimagine the space as a car-free zone. PHOTO: Samantha lee

Thousands of people took to Merrydale Avenue to reimagine the space as a car-free zone. PHOTO: Samantha lee

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Merrydale Avenue had traffic of a different kind as thousands took to the streets for the first Open Streets day.

Bicycles, rollerblades, skateboards and thousands of pairs of feet recreated the busy arterial way on Sunday last week for six hours of uninterrupted fun in the sun.

Merrydale Avenue was barricaded from Oxford Street to Wespoort Drive to host the Open Streets Mitchell’s Plain.

The festival-like atmosphere encouraged residents to take back their streets and promote non-motorised transportation.

Open Streets Co-founder Marcela Guerrero Casas says the even exceeded her expectations.

“The numbers are a testament to the desire of the residents for an initiative like this,” she says.

The event was hosted by the organisation in partnership with the City of Cape Town.

The free community day encouraged residents to rediscover their home town and engage with other people from across Mitchell’s Plain, turning the street into a 1,2km long playground for young and old.

Cycle tracks, over-sized board games, a massive jumping castle, basketball hoops, and a flurry of live entertainment could be found lining the street.

Adults and children alike drew on the road surface with chalk, while others played games, cycled and danced.

The excitement was tangible.

Kim Woods from Lentegeur and her family joined in on the celebrations.

“This was an amazing day. I use this street to drop off my children at school and the road is always packed with cars. It is great to see the road packed with people today.”

Another resident, Alfred Jacobs from Westridge says he hope the event returns.

“I saw so many people I went to school with and it was great to reconnect with them. We lead such busy lives and we drift apart even though we all live in Mitchell’s Plain,” says Jacobs.

Alex May from Eastridge agrees. It is great to see an event like this come to Mitchell’s Plain where we can come together on our doorsteps and not have to travel outside to have a great time,” she says.

Guerrero Casas says they would like to bring the event back to Mitchell’s Plain but for now do not have the necessary funding to so.
“This event was a test and I think we passed the test. We learned what worked and what didn’t work and now we need government and the private sector to help us bring it back,” she says.

This is the fourth open streets event following Bree Street, Langa and Bellville.
Guerrero Casas says planning for the event started last year and should there be another Open Streets event, they would look at extending the stretch and seeing how they could connect other streets and areas within Mitchell’s Plain to the event.

“Cape Town is geographically spread out and unfortunately those of us who live more centrally seldom have a reason to travel to the city outskirts – to areas that were created to entrench the apartheid plan. This is the legacy we need to address urgently and Open Streets presents a unique opportunity for all of us to understand the spatial challenge and at the same time experience what a shift in transport mode – from motorised to non-motorised – can do to create a liveable and sustainable city,” said Mayco member for Transport for Cape Town, Brett Herron in a statement.

Guerrero Casas says this event was unique to all other open streets events.
“We don’t customize anything for the event and what is unique about this event is that all the activities here was organised by Mitchell’s Plain residents which gives me the impression of ownership.”
For more pictures of the event see our Facebook Page: People’s Post.

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