Above: Stellenbosch’s Moederkerk in Church street. Photo: Francois Lombard.

Stellenbosch Municipality released a statement on Friday 30 October that they would be putting an end to their Transport Month initiative as, despite overall positive feedback, some complaints have arisen.

October is Transport Month in South Africa and during this month various projects and programs are implemented across the country to promote safer transport, non-motorized transport (NMT) and universal access programs for persons with disabilities. These are annual events and have been implemented every year during the month of October.

In an attempt to promote NMT and allow for greater pedestrian, cyclist and disabled access in Church and Andringa Streets, we embarked on an Open Street Programme for the week of 26 – 31 October 2020.

The aim of the week was to promote outdoor dining with businesses being allowed to spill onto the sidewalks and to create a safe space for pedestrians, cyclists and persons with disabilities. This was done without restricting the movement of vehicles. Drop-and-go facilities were in place, delivery vehicles could still access designated parking spots and vehicles could still freely move through the area – giving right of way to pedestrians, cyclists and other NMT road users.

The above program was advertised on social media, the Stellenbosch Citizen App, the municipal website and through flyers that were delivered to businesses in the affected area. Our Portfolio Councillor for Infrastructure Services, Councillor Quintin Smit, personally visited business in the area to relay the purpose of the week and listen to any concerns of business owners. It was reassuring to see the public support from various organisations, including Visit Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch Wine Routes, the Stellenbosch Ratepayer’s Association and Stellenbosch Cycling.

The feedback received from stakeholders, visitors and residents has been overwhelmingly positive. However, the week was met with apprehension by a few individual business owners. The Municipality quickly realised that fake news was deliberately being spread to create confusion and resistance to this progressive initiative. As such, the Municipality made the decision to end the Transport Week programme on Friday, 30 October.

The reality is that within the historic core of our town, the majority of businesses have encroached onto the sidewalks for the purposes of outdoor dining and other promotional purposes. There is no formal agreement in place for these encroachments. It has over the years become part of our town’s special attraction and unique culture. However, business owners should be cognisant of the fact that we receive numerous complaints from residents, disabled persons, and the elderly, that they are not able to utilize the sidewalks in the area due to these encroachments which create a dangerous situation as they are forced to walk in the street where vehicles move.

We are naturally disappointed that the initiative has been derailed as we had the best intentions to create a family-friendly and safe environment for all, whilst highlighting the need for greener modes of transport. We ask that residents and business owners approach us with alternative ideas and proposals. We look forward to their innovative solutions and working together to create a mutually beneficial environment.

  – Stellenbosch Municipality