While the public participation process for the proposed changes for the recreational use of the Sea Point Promenade closed on Sunday 10 April, Our Future Cities has slammed the City saying it is appalled that scarce public resources are being used to this “non-issue” by the council.
The non-profit organisation (NPO), that aims to promote democracy and actions towards the creation of more progressive and bold cities, calls for the withdrawal of the entire process.
The move would prohibit peddle cyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers and force them to use the pavement (sidewalk) on the seaside of Beach Road.
Rashiq Fataar, Founder and Director of the NPO, says it is disappointing that the City and its appointed consultants failed to understand how the “multimodality” of the promenade lies at the heart of its vibrant and diverse nature.
“It is imperative that the City acknowledges the cultural significance of the Sea Point Promenade as a site for social symbiosis and inclusion, as well as a critical case study in the City’s approach to mobility and facilitation of the public realm going forward.”
Fataar says the Promenade is a multi-faceted space and one of the most loved and democratic in the city.
“The City’s feeble defence of the proposal as ‘a proposal only’ is a very public one and obvious example of this style of management-by-petition as if the City lacked the budget, powers, or skill to shape the city’s mobility system. We caution the City on the dangers of pandering to Nimbyism and setting harmful precedents for the future of non-motorised transport.”
He believes the City should be focussing on investing in the promotion of non-motorised transport (NMT).
“If there are, in 2022, so few high-quality places to walk, cycle, use a wheelchair or ride a skateboard in our city, then it is not from a lack of scenery or opportunity, but from an astonishing failure to develop more of these spaces, leaving places like the Promenade over-subscribed.”
Jared Chaipowitz, co-owner of Up Cycles, a bicycle rental company in Sea Point, says the proposed changes will negatively affect their business as people will be less likely to make use of their services.
“We are already getting lots of phone calls and messages on social media from people who already think that if they come to ride on the Promenade, they will get fined by police.”
According to Chaipowitz, businesses in the cycling sector were not consulted by the City before the proposal went public.
He proposes that a bike lane be created. “If we are only going to be talking about the bricks of the Promenade then the place where we think they should start is maybe putting up some instructional signage and an educational campaign. Those are two affordable and easy to implement options that the City could at least try before implementing a ban.”
Chaipowitz claims the City’s public participation process is “flawed”.
“They only gave us one option to vote yes or no to, which is banning the bicycles from the promenade and moving them onto the pavement. But the City’s own senior transport planner has already said that moving all of the bicycles unto the pavement is not safe and not supported from a transport perspective.”
Lisa Williams, co-owner of Electrek, an electric bicycles and electric scooters renting company in Sea Point, says while they support ongoing review of the shared space to ensure safety for all, she believes implementing a ban is short sighted.
“We think that moving straight to a ban of wheels using the promenade is a knee-jerk response. It is an attempt to make the City look like they are doing something when in reality this proposal is not only inconsistent and unsafe, but it is also unworkable and furthermore lacks data. There is no evidence that there is a long-term plan for Cape Town and alternative modes of transport unlike other major cities worldwide.”
Williams says she also receive calls daily from concerned clients. She says even though they have a trading licence for the promenade for the past four years a few of their customers were recently fined for driving an e-bike.
“We have also experienced a bizarre situation, where a member of our staff who was cycling on a public road on an E-bike (but without the motor being operational) was stopped by traffic enforcement and told that he could not cycle on the road and should move onto the pavement. As soon as he did this, the same officer issued him a fine of R500.”
Williams says following the initiation of the public consultation, they have suggested multiple alternative proposals.
“We suggest that any company operating with a licence on the promenade purchases an annual licence for each vehicle i.e. Rx per bike/scooter. This licence would be placed on the front of the bike or scooter, so it is easily recognisable to traffic marshals. This will also generate revenue which could be reinvested into the Promenade.”
She says they also suggested the demarcation of a “frail lane” for those who feel compromised.
“There is also the possibility of reducing the number of car lanes at busy times of the weekend for use by wheeled vehicles. Also reconfiguring some of the grassed area.”
JP Smith, Mayco member for safety and security, says the City’s traffic service conducted an operation on Friday 18 March, in response to complaints received.
He says electric vehicles were fined for driving on the promenade and adds that two pedal cyclists received notices for riding on a pavement (sidewalk). “These are infringements in terms of the National Road Traffic Act. It must also be noted that the Traffic Service has also liaised with the companies hiring out electric vehicles, informing them that these are not allowed on a public road if they are not properly licensed. It is an offence to use electric or motorised vehicles in terms of national legislation.”
Rob Quintas, Mayco member for urban mobility, says officials from the urban mobility directorate will do an assessment of all the comments collated. And adds that a report will be tabled for consideration by the City’s portfolio committee on urban mobility, the local subcouncil, as well as Council. The report will reference the overview and outcomes of the public participation process.