Pretoria - Residents of the capital should prepare themselves for a car-free day, such as has been held in Sandton, and make plans to use public transport, cycle or walk on the day.
This was the recommendation of the metro’s MMC for roads and transport, Sheila Senkubuge, at a sustainable transport seminar in the city.
“We should embark on the planning for a car-free day to be held next October (Transport Month),” she said. “I do understand that the logistics are onerous, but absolutely necessary, particularly if we are committed to a deepening pedestrianisation, non-motorised transportation and public transport.”
The responsibility of this initiative would reside with the Sustainable Transport Forum and she expected regular reports on progress, she said.
The city organised the seminar in partnership with the department of transport and the South African Cities Network. It was aimed at discussing the status quo, opportunities and challenges in advancing sustainable mass mobility and low carbon mobility across the capital.
Senkubuge pledged her commitment to three undertakings - the establishment of a sustainable transport forum, participation in the Earth-Hour City Challenge and the car-free day.
The Car-Free Day idea stems from the EcoMobility Festival in Sandton in October 2015. It restricted people from using their cars in Sandton for the day, forcing them to find other more energy-efficient forms of transport.
Despite its detractors, Geoff Bickford, project manager of the SA Cities Network, said one of the best ways to get the ball rolling was to keep an idea at the top of people’s minds.
“When something is far from you, then you don’t really think about it,” he said. “But as soon as it starts affecting you, then it stays on your mind.”
Other topics discussed at the seminar were people completely relying on public transport, particularly travelling to and from work.
“You cannot drive in the city in a car anymore - it’s just ridiculous,” said Carel Snyman, general manager of the cleaner mobility programme at the SA National Energy Development Institute. Congestion in the city centre and lack of parking made driving around impossible.
“The inner city is where most of the energy is consumed and where there is the most pollution,” Snyman said. He made a plea to people to use taxis to cut the carbon footprint.
Another mode of transport being punted was bicycles. Tshepo Mlangeni, a member of the Tshwane Urban Riders, said apart from the fact that there was not enough infrastructure to support cycling, it was also unsafe.
“I will never cycle on Solomon Mahlangu Drive from Mamelodi; that road is unsafe,” he said. “A cyclist is killed there weekly and about 350 cyclists use that road daily.”
The seminar’s biggest message was that all plans to upgrade the transport system, not only in Pretoria but the whole country, could be achieved but funding was needed.