Car-free on Bree: Open Streets in Cape Town

Cape Town’s Bree Street was rendered car-free on Sunday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. for Open Streets. With an absence of motorized vehicles the street became a place for play and expression. Walking down the street, one could stop for a game of road-side scrabble, grab a piece of chalk and doodle on the road, get involved in a game of handball, or watch a small crew of pole-dancers, from the Pole Project, rotating round a pole on the sidewalk.

Open Streets aims to change the way that streets are used and perceived. Inspired by Bogota’s Ciclovia — a temporary network of car-free areas and routes throughout the city — it is a relatively new concept in South Africa, a place where motorized transport reigns supreme. Open Streets Cape Town, the organization that runs these events, was founded in 2012.

“Open Streets is about going onto the streets, having fun and interacting,” said Nicola Scholl, who was orchestrating a game of handball on Bree Street and is with Play Handball, an organization that uses handball to empower girls and promote an open-minded society.

Open Streets Cape Town has funding from the City of Cape Town and is putting on another Open Streets event in Langa, a township on the city’s eastern periphery, in March. In 2014, the organization had to cancel a planned event in the coastal suburb of Muizenberg, after a permit for the event was denied.

Open Streets founder Marcela Guerrero Casas hopes to increase the frequency of Open Streets events. “It needs to be regular,” she said. “A once-off doesn’t do anything.”

Speaking at the opening ceremony on Sunday, Brett Heron, Transport for Cape Town mayoral committee member, called on people to “own the street” and said there was a need to embed the Open Streets concept in the city.

Take a look at UrbanAfrica’s photo gallery from the Open Streets event below.

Open Streets_cloaks Open Streets_Scrabble Open Streets_hula hoops Open Streets skate flip Open Streets_chalk skate Open Streets_pole dancing Open Streets_bike rack Open Streets_Nigeria protest Open Streets spraypaint Open Streets_poker Open Streets_kids chalk

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