Friday, August 30, 2013

Joburg Doesn't Accomodate Pedestrians as it Should

Siphumelele Zondi

I never thought I worried about livable spaces until I returned to Johannesburg from my studies in the United Kingdom. On return to Johannesburg, I decided to leave my car at home on several occasions, I would walk in the suburbs to catch minibus taxis and from time to time walk around the city centre as well.

I realised that in 2013, Johannesburg still doesn’t have pavements in many areas. This is clear mostly when I jog as I would have to figure out how to avoid cars in certain places in the suburbs. What I am happy about is that there are more and more people who decide to leave their homes and walk around the burbs. I hadn’t quite realised this about this city as I, like many Joburgers, would hop into my car to drive to malls and friends’ houses.

I have also realised that people in this beautiful city spend too much time indoors and don’t experience the beautiful weather that we have, the many parks around our city and the nature that we have been blessed with. After hopping into their cars, people then drive to malls. A mall is also an enclosed space that doesn’t allow people to walk outside to experience the weather before walking into another shop. London and Brighton in England and Helsinki in Finland showed me the beauty of streets that are on the side of the road. These streets would often have massive windows allowing people to window shop from the roadside. This would add to the beauty of these cities, especially on sunny summer days. Johannesburg doesn’t really have that; at least middle class areas don’t have that.

I hope this will change soon. The Gautrain has been introduced for the middle class that never wants to walk on pavements and only see the sun when driving in their cars. The problem is that people are not walking to train stations; they leave home in the morning, leave their cars in the train station parking and then hop on the train. Some get people to drop them off at the train station, get on the train and then end up near a mall or work in Sandton or Rosebank. They don’t even walk a step further than the station before finding buses to take them to other destinations – a waste of good weather.

Johannesburg has some beautiful buildings. Often these buildings are behind high walls. So even as I walk on the city’s pavements, I seldom get to see beautiful buildings as they are closed off. That is why I love the Goethe Institute Building in Parktown as it can be seen from the side of the road, has no wall behind it and it’s easy to walk into the building when I need to do something there.
I also can’t expect Joburgers to ditch their cars and solely use public transport as there are areas with inadequate public transport. The city has an amazing nighlife, but it's how to return home once one has been out that becomes a problem. I realised this on a day I decided to take a taxi from East Rand Mall, hopped off at the Noord Taxi Rank and then walked across town through Park Station to the Bree Taxi Rank. It was early evening that day and I realised that taxis to the suburb I was going to were running out. After a certain hour in Johannesburg, it becomes impossible to get public transport to go anywhere; this is something that needs to be fixed if people are to properly experience this city to its fullest.

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