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Cape Town - Reaction to the City of Cape Town’s proposal to close off the top section of Long Street has been varied, with some saying it will create a “gangsters’ paradise” and some seeing it as a way to attract more people to the area.
Councillor David Bryant has proposed that Long Street be closed to general vehicular traffic between Wale and Watson streets. The MyCiTi bus and emergency vehicles would still have access, as would service vehicles during set hours.
He said congestion on this street, which served as a link through the centre of the city, was becoming a problem.
Marcela Guerrero Casas of Open Streets, a citizens’ initiative that promotes accessible public spaces, agreed that Long Street’s traffic was a deterrent for many people.
“Increased foot traffic would certainly benefit businesses, but most importantly it will increase safety and create a more welcoming space in the city centre.”
The reaction on social media was less supportive, with one tweet reading: “Closing off Long Street to motorists would not make it a pedestrians’ paradise, but a gangsters’ paradise. As it is there is no parking available… Where will they park, or will they walk around the corner only to be mugged and killed? We have far more important issues that need attention than this nonsense.”
Another said: “I love driving up Long Street on my way out of town. It’s such a typically Cape Town place - having to drive slowly and change lanes a few times for taxis or whatever is all part of the fun.”
There were also concerns about the safety of patrons from nightclubs and restaurants who would spill on to the street. “People are already all over the road, imagine it without traffic? It is going to become uncontrollable,” said one commentator.
St Martini Church is concerned that its congregation will suffer if the street is pedestrianised.
The church lets out parking bays as a source of income. There is also a crèche on the premises, with about 100 children who are collected daily by their parents, most of them in cars.
Rashiq Fataar, of the think tank Future Cape Town, said: “We believe that a vibrant and safer public realm is promoted through more, not fewer, people on our streets and in our public spaces.”
Long Street was more than just an entertainment zone. “It is a place where religious places of over 100 years have a home, where fashion entrepreneurs take a bold leap in opening a store, where government buildings, restaurants and most importantly people are stitched into a complex, unique and diverse urban fabric