Car Free Day in Johannesburg
- Car Free Day
Date : 16 October 2005
Producer : Bronwyn Nielsen
Presenter : Derek Watts
Researcher : Seamus Reynolds
Genre : General Interest
Private car ownership is growing by 10% a year in South Africa and chances
are, if this continues, our major cities will be gridlocked in ten years'
To help with congestion, government is encouraging us to leave our cars at
home on Thursday and use buses, taxis and trains
So naturally we decided to put our public transport to the test and we
enrolled three top executives to help us.
Derek Watts (Carte Blanche presenter): "Sorry, you are about to get in. we
have got to take the keys. the keys. so, Russel,l we have got to take the
keys Very nice car, by the way."
Our first victim is Andile Mazwai CEO of Barnard Jacobs Mellet. He readily
takes the twenty rand we make him sign for and accepts our challenge.
It's 6.30am and Andile has to get from home in Oaklands to his office in
Rosebank for a 7.00am meeting. His office is only 4.4km away so he should
easily make it by seven.
Andile Mazwai (CEO of Barnard Jacobs Mellet): "We have got a choice. Either
we go south all the way to the CBD and then we go all the way back to
Rosebank - which I have learned is about a half an hour round trip on a good
day - or we go north, doing the same thing in Sandton and catching another
taxi and coming back to Rosebank."
Derek: "Andile, we have been going twenty minutes now. Shouldn't we be
looking for a taxi?"
Andile: "Well we should, we have certainly spotted one or two. Unfortunately
for us, not going the way we want them to go"
Derek: [taxi drives past] "You know what? He probably thought you couldn't
pay the fare."
Derek: [taxi stops] "Not going our way?"
Andile: "Not going our way. He is turning around here, going back to Jo'
Forty-five minutes later we reach the halfway mark, which means we've still
got more than 2km's to go.
Derek: "Are you looking lustfully at those cars now?"
Andile: "Lustfully is the word. listening to the radio, nice and cosy."
Derek: "What do you think of the car free day?"
Andile: "It's actually a very good idea. One thing that it is certainly
going to teach me is to be more sympathetic and understanding towards people
who have to take public transport. You're just not as in control of your
route as you otherwise would be"
Andile: [walks to a taxi]: "You going to Rosebank?"
Taxi driver: "Sorry for you. you have to walk."
Derek: "All these taxis just drive by."
Andile: "Look at that! For the love of money I can't get a taxi."
Derek; "Lets face it, most of us are just too scared to get a taxi.'
Andile: "Ja, definitely. Most people just don't want to do it. They're too
nervous, scared about what might and what might not happen. But in reality
the people in taxis are ordinary people trying to get to work and trying to
Derek: "But sometimes at a hell of a speed in a non-roadworthy taxi."
Andile; "Those are the taxi drivers, yes. But the rest of the passengers are
like you and me - just regular people."
Derek: "So you have missed two meetings so far?"
Andile: "Missed two meetings, but for a good cause."
Andile's journey from Oaklands to Rosebank takes 1hr 15min. He covers a
distance of 4.4 km at a slow speed of only 3.3km per hour. But he does walk
away R20 richer.
Victim number two is Michael Jordaan CEO of FNB. We make him sign for twenty
rand and again the challenge is to get from home to work.
This time, though, we need to get from Inanda to Bank City in Jo'burg's CBD,
a total travelling distance of 9.6km.
Derek: "So Michael, you have done a bit of research about our route today?"
Michael Jordaan (CEO of FNB): "Yes, my secretary helped me. She eventually
managed to get a time schedule but with very scant information about exactly
where we are going."
Derek: 'But do you think it is good to have this sort of campaign?"
Michael: "Well look, frankly I have never even before considered public
transport and I think that goes for a lot of South Africans. So I think
awareness is good, but it has got to come with a product."
Derek: "Michael, we've been walking for 15 minutes. Where is the bus? "
Michael: "Not that far. If you look over there, you can see that sign it
says 'bus [stop]'. Now is the moment of truth."
Derek: "Now to be fair, Michael. because we were late because Andile held us
up; he walked very slowly. But if we had been here on time we would have
caught the 9:35."
Michael: "There we go, here is the bus."
The bus literally takes us by surprise as we aren't expecting it to be on
Michael: [in the bus] "What was surprising was that it didn't have any sign
of where it was going to. So I suppose what happens is, insiders start to
know these things. But it would be far more useful if both on the bus and at
the bus stop there was some information about what was happening."
Michael: [to the driver] "Just want to know where the best place is get to
get off if I want to get to Bank City."
The driver doesn't have a clue and the best advice he can offer is Gandhi
Luckily Michael is not CEO of FNB for nothing. He has his GPS programmed
with his work address.
Michael: "If we do get lost in town, and I am prone to getting lost, it can
actually help us."
But we don't even need these modern devices. We actually spot Bank City from
Derek: "It only took us about 15 minutes."
Michael: "Which is about the time it takes to drive."
Derek: "Well what did you think of the trip?"
Michael: "I actually thought it was nice, refreshing. I suppose the only
uncertainty is whether that bus was early or late. We will never know. But
once you are on the bus, what a convenient way to get to town."
Michael's journey from Inanda to Town takes a total of 45minutes including
the walk to the bus stop. He covers a distance of 9.6 km at a speed of 12km
per hour. It costs him R5 or 52c per km.
Next up - Russell Loubser CEO of the JSE Securities Exchange.
The challenge. getting from the JSE in Sandton to a meeting in Rosebank - a
total distance of 5.8km's
Derek: "What are the signals?"
Russell Loubser (CEO of the JSE Securities Exchange): "From here and [if]
you are on the right side of the road and you want to go to Rosebank, then
it is two fingers."
Russell: "Let's go stand on the right side of the road and try the finger
one. [Taxi pulls over.] Hi there, baba. Can you take me to Rosebank?"
Taxi driver: "This hand is for Sandton."
Russell: "Okay, what is the sign for Rosebank?"
Taxi driver: "You can just give the sign for town."
Derek: "That guy seemed to want to take us, but I think it was the cameras
that put him off."
Russell: "I think so."
So we hide our cameras and get lucky.
Russell: "Can you take me to Rosebank?"
Taxi driver: "No. I'm just going to the rank, but you can catch this taxi I'
ll give you a lift."
Derek: "Will he take us?"
Russell: "Ja, he will take us."
Derek: "What do you think of this car free day?"
Russell: "Well I think it is worth investigating, but personally I think it
is premature. a lot premature for South Africa."
We arrive at the Sandton taxi rank searching desperately for signs to
Russelll: "Who is going to Rosebank? Which one?"
Rosebank isn't an option, so we settle for Birnam
Derek: "Have you paid?"
Happy that we are kind of going in the right direction, we sit back and
enjoy the ten minute ride.
Derek; "Hey Russell, what did you think of that?"
Russell: "Ja, it was great, I had good conversations there."
Derek: "But it was quite orderly and quiet there."
Russell: "Ja sure. The taxi was nice and clean. It went well."
Catching the third and hopefully last taxi proves very difficult. Russell
has a better chance of catching a lift with a friend .
Russell: [shouts to friend] "How much do you charge to go to Rosebank?"
Luckily a taxi driver takes pity on us and flags down a taxi.
Derek: 'You have got a way with taxi drivers, hey?"
Russell: "I grew up in the country, I understand the chaps.'
Finally we arrive at destination Rosebank
Derek: "So Russell, what was that like?"
Russell: "It was a bit slow. slower than usual, but it works."
Russel's journey from Sandton to Rosebank takes just under an hour to get
5.8 km, which is a speed of 6.3km per hour. It costs R12 or R2 a kilometer -
by far the most expensive journey.
Derek: "There is a certain novelty about a car free day, maybe even a bit of
fun. But for millions of our population it is a reality. This is their means
Before challenging our execs we didn't actually inform them that you are
twelve times more likely to be killed on SA roads than in the US. And that
the government last got round to publishing safety stats in 1998. 34% of all
buses on the road crashed. 27% of all taxis crashed. 14% of all cars
crashed. 5% of all motorbikes crashed.
These stats don't include trains, which we still need to test. Motoring
journalist Rob Handfield- Jones comes along for the ride.
The most feasible trip for us is Jo'burg station to Pretoria station - a
distance of 70km.
Rob Handfield-Jones (motoring journalist): "I think it's good that we do
have a car free day, it fits in with world policy. Until we have a safer
alternative for people who would otherwise use cars, I don't think it is
Derek: "So you don't think it is worth just joining in?"
Rob: "From my personal point of view. I know the statistics. I know how
dangerous it is to travel on buses and taxis."
And suddenly there is chaos in our carriage.
Derek: "We just heard a scream. It looked like somebody jumped out of the
window. We will try to find out what's happening."
Derek: "What happened?"
Train official: "That guy took his wallet."
Derek: "He took his wallet? Then he jumped out of the window?"
Train official: "Ja."
Rob: "When you get on a train to see how our public transport works, the
last thing you expect to see is somebody's bag being snatched in front of
your eyes and in front of the camera."
Mugging and all, our journey from Joburg to Pretoria takes just over one and
a half hours - this at a speed of 43km's per hour and it costs R8, which is
about 11c per kilometer. Besides the walk, our cheapest journey
In Pretoria it only seems right to drop in on the Minister of Transport,
Jeff Radebe who, along with other dignitaries, has also been testing out
Jeff Radebe (Minister of Transport): "I did a bus trip from Mamelodi to
Pretoria, which was eye- opening in terms of the facilities of bus ranks
there, that are non-existent in Mamelodi, and the time it took. about one
hour thirty minutes, which is totally out of order."
Derek: "What would you say the aims of car free day are?"
Jeff: "A dress rehearsal of what measures we need to take in South Africa in
order to improve the congestion that we see on our roads."
Derek: "There is a projection that, with the increase in sales of private
vehicles by ten percent per annum, the major cities could be grid locked by
Jeff: "The pressure on our road network is enormous. That is why, over and
above the issue of cars, we also need to improve our public transport system
to encourage people to use more buses [and] of course, with the challenges
that it faces. passenger rail."
Derek: "A lot of people just won't take a bus, or a train or a taxi, because
they feel it just lowers their status."
Jeff: "I think if we improve our public transport, which we are determined
to do. the coming in of the Gautrain, I think we are going to see a shift in
the trend of people and their preferences. The car is not the all and be all
of transport in the country."
Derek: "I have looked at all the options for car free and I think I will go
with this one - the scooter - so I will see you on the road."