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Cape Town - Bustling Long Street may soon become a pedestrian’s paradise if the City of Cape Town approves a proposal to close off a substantial section of the road to general traffic.
The Good Hope Subcouncil, that includes the CBD, has approved a motion to turn the top half of Long Street from Watson Street to Wale Street into a permanent “fan walk”.
Councillor Dave Bryant, who made the proposal, said service delivery vehicles would still have access during set hours, and emergency vehicles and the MyCiTi buses would still be able to drive along the road.
“It has been looked at a number of times. The central city is changing every day with new businesses opening, improved public transport and more pedestrians.”
In his explanation to the sub-council, Bryant said it was becoming increasingly difficult for law enforcement to take action against vehicles that blocked traffic in Long Street.
The police had complained that their law enforcement activities were being affected by delivery vehicles and stationary cars. “This is combined with a very large number of pedestrians who mingle in and out of the traffic. In the evenings the pedestrians are inebriated which makes the situation even more dangerous.”
Bryant said he was aware of concerns that the street was used by many vehicles, including those doing deliveries, so there would be a dedicated lane for those, as in St George’s Mall.
Bryant said there was “overwhelming” sentiment from law enforcement agencies, community organisations and others to restrict vehicle access in this section of Long Street.
Tasso Evangelinos, chief operating officer of the Central City Improvement District, said: “The effect it will have on making the central city more pedestrian-friendly would be an extremely positive move.”
He said the continued access for MyCiTi buses would further promote public transport. “As far as we know, the idea has been on the cards in one form or another since the 2010 World Cup, when the whole of Cape Town saw the enormous success of road closures that created amazing public spaces through which people moved freely and safely.”
But he added that by closing off the road, the city would be creating a new public space that would need to be properly managed. “The resources therefore must be provided to ensure a clean, safe and secure environment.”
Most of the activity in Long Street, already established as an entertainment destination, was managed indoors and usually between the hours of 11pm and 4am. “… this activity may now well spill out onto the streets, so adequate resources to manage this will be critical in terms of keeping people safe, cleaning the area after each night’s activities and enforcing the laws and by-laws.”
Two years ago the Long Street Residents’ Association did a survey of its members. Although most supported the idea, many were concerned that patrons of nightspots would spill on to the street, treating the area as an “open-air nightclub”.
A Bree Street resident said closing a major arterial road such as Long Street would exacerbate traffic congestion in the city. It was suggested that vehicle access be limited to certain hours.
The proposal will now be referred to the executive directors of transport, economic development, environment and spatial planning and safety and security.
One of the recommendations is that “from the outset” the process of deciding on Long Street’s access will include input and participation from the local community and those who will be affected.