South Africa's first Car Free Day
Little support for Car-Free Day
20 October 2005 02:08
Most people in Johannesburg used their private vehicles to get to work on
Thursday despite the government's call to use public transport and
participate in Car-Free Day.
Traffic jams and congested roads were still the norm on Johannesburg's
roads, and mall parking lots were as busy as any other day.
Some people said they prefer to use their vehicles as public transport is
not reliable enough, while others who used taxis or buses said they will use
public transport in the future if the public-transport system is improved.
Two women living in Sandton and working in a clothing store in Rosebank said
they used their cars to get to work on Thursday morning and were stuck in
"It made no difference. There was a lot of traffic on the roads, the same as
any other day," said Nadine Pavlakis.
Her friend, Liora Waila, said: "The roads were busy and I don't think
Car-Free Day made any difference on congestion."
Meanwhile, Jan Whitehead from Kensington said he left his car at home and
took a taxi to work.
"It took me much longer to get to work, but one would expect that. I think
the idea to use public transport is reasonably practical," said Whitehead.
"The idea that government has for people to use public transport more often
could work if the conditions of some taxis are improved. People are worried
about their safety."
Patience Dube, a waitress in Newtown who lives in Hillbrow and travels by
taxi every day, said the taxis and buses on her route were not busier than
"Traffic looked normal, like other days. I think if they [the government]
want more people to use public transport, then they should have more buses
and taxis on the road and they shouldn't allow overloading so people won't
be afraid to use it."
Premier takes taxi
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sibusiso Ndebele led by example on Car-Free Day on
Thursday when he travelled by taxi to an imbizo (meeting) he was scheduled
to address on the South Coast.
However, provincial traffic authorities said their area was too vast to
determine whether people had heeded the call to make use of public of public
Transport spokesperson Colin Govender said: "We appeal to people to give it
a try before making negative comments."
He also called on commuters to use the buddy system and give their friends a
lift when using their private vehicles.
Durban couple Thavier and Prenola Reddy of La Mercy, who travelled to the
Durban beachfront in their 4X4, said: "It's not going to work. Taxis don't
take you exactly where you want to go. It's also much safer and more
convenient when you use your own car."
A car guard in the city centre, Joey Nortier, said the beachfront was packed
with cars because students were writing exams in a nearby conference centre.
"Other than the students, it's been very quiet, especially for a Thursday,
which is usually one of the busiest days. But it's been quiet for the past
month anyway," she said.
Nortier, who last year received a trophy from the police's beach unit for
being the most dedicated car guard, said she thinks traffic has decreased
because of the rising petrol price.
A taxi driver from Umzinto on the South Coast, Ronnie Jama, said he was
happy that there was less traffic on the road.
Jama said he travels the 110km between Durban and Umzinto about three times
a day and it was a "pleasure" to be on the road on Thursday.
"I think people have listened to government because the road is more quiet.
I think they must do this more so that they can see it's the small cars and
not the taxis that cause the accidents," he said.
No success in Bloemfontein
Motorists in Bloemfontein did not appear to heed the government's call to
participate in its Car-Free Day initiative.
"There are signs that people heard the call but they did not flock in their
numbers to public transport," Free State minister of transport Seiso Mohai
The provincial transport department said earlier that although Bloemfontein
has not reached the "already unbearable traffic congestion situation" like
in other metropolitan areas, the city -- as a major urban centre in the
province -- is already showing signs of this trend.
Some Free State provincial leaders made use of Bloemfontein's public
transport network on their way to work to support the government's efforts
to get more people to use public transport.
Premier Beatrice Marshoff took a taxi from the Pelonomi hospital in Heidedal
to the central part of Bloemfontein, from where she walked about four blocks
to her office.
Mohai took a bus to work from the suburb Universitas and later caught a taxi
to Bothabelo, about 60km west of Bloemfontein, for a meeting with
Before boarding the taxi, Mohai said that the government has made a
commitment to invest more in the transport system.
"We have to rekindle the public's confidence in public transport," he said.
Bloemfontein residents gave various reasons for not using public transport
on Thursday, including buses not stopping near enough to work or home and
transport time schedules clashing with work commitments during the day.
Rail problems in Cape Town
In Cape Town, Car-Free Day got off to a rocky start when a technical fault
disabled the busy Khayelitsha rail line in the early hours of Thursday
And the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in the province
accused the government of "reckless endangerment" in urging more people to
use what it said was the already overcrowded public transport system.
"As Cosatu we support greater use of public transport, but [this] must be
pursued in a safe and considered way," said Cosatu's provincial secretary,
Metrorail said a "contact wire" snapped near Khayelitsha station at 4.30am,
causing two trains to be cancelled and others to be late.
Buses were organised to assist customers and by 6.10am a partial rail
service had been restored.
The national government's call to use public transport appeared to have had
little effect on motorists in the city, and rush-hour commuters on the
notoriously congested routes into the city centre from the northern suburbs
said there was no difference in traffic volume.
Frank van der Velde, spokesman for the city council's transport portfolio,
said the city had not actively promoted the no-car day partly because of the
short notice it was given, and partly because it had its own car-free day
However, he said, a group of about 30 officials, including city and
provincial traffic planners and deputy director general of the national
transport department Lucky Montana, had rendezvoused at the Mitchells Plain
transport interchange at 5.30am to make their way into town by bus and taxi.
Van der Velde said he had made the trip into town in a taxi, jammed in with
15 other people.
"The taxi driver was aware that he had officials on board, so he didn't
weave as much as one observes them do," he said.
Advertising account executive Philadi Kekana, who drove to her office in the
city centre by car from Table View in the northern suburbs after the rush
hour, said she knew about Car-Free Day, "but I thought it was a Jo'burg
thing". -- Sapa