The Ecomobility World Festival 2015 kicked off today in the Sandton CBD with citizens of Johannesburg spending their Sunday marching from the Sandton Gautrain station to Alexandra.
Despite the heat, many Johannesburg residents attended the official launch of the Ecomobility Festival, which aims to create awareness around reducing South Africa’s carbon footprint and encourage road users to choose alternative modes of transport.
The Festival was officially opened by the Minister of Transport, Dipuo Peters; the Premier of Gauteng, David Makhura; the Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Parks Tau; and the Mayor of Suwon, Yeom Tae-Young, from South Korea – where the very first Ecomobility Festival was held.
Other VIPs included 2012 SA’s Got Talent winner and spoken word artist Botlhale Boikanyo, MMC for Transport, Cllr Christine Walters, ICLEI Representative Monica Otto-Zimmermann, the Alex Field Band and Voca de Alex.
During his speech, Premier Makhura pledged to use the Gautrain as transport for the entire month of October. The Festival will end on Saturday, October 31. Makhura added that in the 80s, cycling and walking between Sandton and Alex wasn’t a choice, but that it is a choice now.
Minister Peters also urged Johannesburgers to use the Gautrain, saying that it is so advanced that anyone can walk from their house to a Gautrain bus and then catch the train.
The crowd was particularly taken away with 14 year old Boikanyo, who recited a poem she specially wrote for the Ecomobility Festival.
Those who chose not to walk the 11 kilometres to Alexandra had the opportunity to explore the Ecomobility World Exhibition. Running for the duration of the Festival and set up at the Sandton Gautrain station, the exhibition will host over 30 national and international exhibitors and interactive display of mobility and ecomobility.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to learn about the evolution of transport over the ages and specifically how South Africa’s transport has changed.
Thandi O’hagan, who is part of the team who developed the concept of the exhibition, said they brought in volunteers who are interested in entertainment and education and who they can give skills training to help out with the exhibition.
The volunteers will specifically be involved in an interactive walking experience which aims to teach visitors about South Africa’s transport history. The walking experience included playing hopscotch, visitors playing around with toy trains, asking the volunteers about transport and how it evolved. There is no entrance fee to the exhibition.
Monday, October 5 to Friday, October 9, will focus on different workshops and dialogues which will cover the various issues and opportunities surrounding Ecomobility and implementing it.
Under the theme “Together we move South Africa forward”, the Department of Transport will launch its annual October Transport Month (OTM) campaign on 1 October.OTM focuses on infrastructure projects that have major socio-economic spin-offs, for all modes of transport such as road, aviation, maritime, rail and public transport.
This year, emphasis will be placed on four pillars:
- Jobs created through infrastructure and other service delivery programmes;
- Major infrastructure developments and improvements and links to local economic developments;
- Special programmes aimed at youth and women; and,
- Rallying all sectors of society to improve road safety with an opportunity to market programmes to be implemented by the Road Safety Advisory Council.
Ongoing transport projects
Key projects will include the official opening of road infrastructure projects, such as the R71 Moria Project (interchange safety improvement), Umgeni Interchange and Denneysville Sasolburg Road in Free State.Minister Jeff Radebe, the minister in the Presidency responsible for planning, monitoring and evaluation, said OTM was also an opportunity to increase road safety awareness. In addition, traffic officers will rotate work shifts for a 24-hour day to help decrease the number of road accidents.”(The) government has also developed a qualification for traffic officers from National Qualifications Framework (NQF) 4 to NQF 6 in order to further professionalise the traffic fraternity,” he said.
Gauteng’s business hub, Sandton, will take part in the Ecomobility World Festival during OTM. The aim is for a car-free CBD for the duration of the festival.”We want to close off certain streets in Sandton, our second largest CBD, to car traffic and instead use these lanes for public transport, walking, cycling and other forms of ecomobility during the entire Transport Month,” said Johannesburg Executive Mayor Parks Tau.”We want to show residents and visitors that an ecomobile future is possible and that public transport, walking and cycling can be accessible, safe, attractive and cool!”The city is providing alternative modes of transport to Sandton.
South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg, announced that it will be organizing the world’s second-ever ‘EcoMobility World Festival’ in October 2015. The festival is a month-long car-free city district event which is supposed to help visualize an ecomobile future for residents and visitors in Johannesburg.
“We want to close off certain streets in Sandton, our second largest Central Business District to car traffic and instead use these lanes for public transport, walking, cycling and other forms of EcoMobility during the entire Transport Month in October”, the Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Parks Tau said last year.
With Africa rated as one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change, events like the Ecomobility festival could be what the continent – and the world at large – needs to reduce emissions that threaten the environment.
The first EcoMobility festival took place in 2013 in the South Korean city of Suwon. Residents of the neighbourhood collectively decided to get rid of every car for one month as a way to help the city reduce carbon emissions by helping citizens get an intuitive sense of what that future could look like. The masterminds of the event, The Urban Idea, explained how hard and stressful the planning period was. “When planning began, the neighbourhood was filled with cars, and people typically drove everywhere, even pulling up on sidewalks to park in front of shops while they ran errands. Most of the people could not envision how their neighbourhood would be car-free,” Konrad Otto-Zimmerman, creative director at The Urban Idea said. “They simply said it couldn’t work.”
However, two years of planning and countless town hall meetings later, 1,500 cars were moved out of the neighbourhood to parking lots elsewhere in the city. The city handed out 400 temporary bikes and electric scooters to neighbours, and set up a bike school to teach the many residents how to ride. Mail was delivered by electric vehicles and shuttle buses ran every 15 minutes to take people to their cars.
By the time the festival was over, residents of the city interacted better, exercised more regularly and were more actively involved in the community than they were before the festival. The town even requested that permanent changes be made to the use of cars in the city after the festival.
A similar experiment took place in Belgium when 22 streets were turned into “Living Streets” for 10 weeks when the city of Ghent asked a group of citizens to imagine a sustainable future for the city.
On the South Africa project, Otto-Zimmerman commented, “It takes an open-minded mayor who likes innovation and provocation, and has a greener vision of a city… and someone who has enough influence and supporters to go through the exercise, because it’s in principle controversial.”
The EcoMobility World Festival in Johannesburg will mobilize and raise local and international support for ecomobile alternatives to fossil-fuel transport. The festival will showcase the new Rea Vaya bus rapid transport scheme and public transport-, cycling- and walking-friendly infrastructure that the city is constructing in Sandton.
Pulling off an EcoMobility Festival is not a cheap venture. The Suwon Project cost over $10 million dollars to produce, although it was reported that a large portion of the budget went into repairing streets that were already in need of renovation.
The Mayor of Johannesburg notes, “We want to show residents and visitors that an ecomobile future is possible and that public transport, walking and cycling can be accessible, safe, attractive and cool!” Mayor Parks Tau also ensured that the city will provide alternative transport in and out of Sandton during this month. The city will host discussions, fun runs, cycle rides and other events to attract people to Sandton to experience the car-free environment.
The Urban Idea says they are planning to organize an EcoMobility World Festival every year in different city on another continent. How many countries or communities – African or worldwide – will be willing to sacrifice the comfort of their cars for a month of “healthy living”?