City spends millions to ensure pedestrian safety

Nabeelah Mohedeen

The City of Cape Town completed 1.5km of walkways in Athlone to provide pedestrians with safe access to the Athlone railway station.

However, some Athlone residents feel that the money used for building these new walkways could have been put to better use.

Transport for Cape Town (TCT), the City’s transport authority, said it has spent about R2.2 million in the past financial year to provide thousands of pedestrians with a safe route to and from their homes and the Athlone railway station.

Walkways in the Athlone area include a new walkway along Aden Road, stretching from Jan Smuts Drive to Birdwood Street, and a new walkway along Birdwood Street, stretching from Klipfontein Road to the end of Birdwood Street.

The walkways are between 1.5 and 3m wide, depending on the road space, with dropped kerbs, and tactile, as well as directional paving for the visually impaired.

Aziza Kannemeyer, the Athlone Community Police Forum chairperson, said the community is not in favour of the amount of money spent on the new walkways because they feel the money should have been used on service delivery instead. “We are not in favour of the extravagant amount of money used for the walkways.

“We are in favour of the directional paving for the visually impaired people but no one knew about the project. They should have discussed it with the community first and we could have given our input.

“It seems like a good thing at first but it’s not like we don’t have sidewalks already. The money should have been used for something better,” she said.

The new walkways forms part of TCT’s Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) programme. The City said due to a number of residents walking to Athlone station every day, they’ve built these new walkways to make it safer and easier for residents who before had to walk between cars parked on either side of the roads, leaving no space for pedestrians to walk safely.

Brett Herron, the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for transport, said the walkways have been constructed to provide pedestrians with a safe route to their destinations. “Each year we allocate a budget for this programme with the sole intent of making it easier and safer for our residents to walk to their destinations,” said Mr Herron.

“Seeing that a significant number of residents walk between their houses and the Athlone railway station, the need was identified to provide pedestrians with a safe route (in terms of road safety) where there will be little, if any, conflict between vehicular movement and pedestrian movement.

“This new walkway is also universally accessible with dropped kerbs, making it easier for wheelchair users to get on and off the sidewalk, as well as for the elderly and other vulnerable road users,” he said.

“Previously the pedestrian space along Birdwood Street was very narrow,” said Mr Herron. “TCT widened this pedestrian space next to Birdwood Street and turned it into a formal walkway with dropped kerbs and tactile paving for those with poor eyesight,” he said.

Muriel Susa, an Athlone community activist, said she is happy with the new walkways but people in the Athlone area need more to be done to uplift the area.

“I’m happy, but we need more to be done. It’s a good idea to upgrade the pavements but we need service delivery. There are lots of other walkways that need work like Lawrence Road and Church Street, and those are in the CBD,” said Ms Susa.

In response Mr Herron said the City appreciates the input from residents. “The City appreciates suggestions from residents in terms of directing its budget. Residents are encouraged to submit their proposals via their local sub-council office,” said Mr Herron.

Charmaine Less, secretary of the Athlone Informal Traders’ Association, who has been trading in Athlone for six years, said instead of wasting money on the new walkways the City should upgrade the shelters for the informal traders.

“Instead of wasting money on walkways the City must build proper shelters for the informal traders to sell our things. In winter it is terrible, the rain comes in and it is windy, and in the summer it is scorching hot. They think nothing of us,” said Ms Less.

“It is not fair that Mitchell’s Plain traders and Cape Town traders have proper shelters and we don’t. They must give us something to be proud of. That is our bread and butter. It is pathetic,” she said.

Mr Herron said it must be borne in mind, however, that trading does not fall under Transport for Cape Town’s mandate. “Transport for Cape Town can only spend its funds on services within its ambit. If residents would like to request trading shelters, they are encouraged to do so via their local sub-council office. The relevant department would then consider that request,” he said.