Looking to beat traffic nightmare

Cape Town's traffic seems to be increasing every year.

There were mixed reactions to the pilot project to help ease traffic congestion in the CBD as people shared their opinions on last week’s lead story in the CapeTowner (“Pilot plan to curb traffic gridlock”, April 6).

As a result of a partnership between the City of Cape Town and the Central City Improvement District (CCID), six traffic officers have been deployed to key intersections around the city centre, from 11am to 6pm, from Monday to Friday, in a bid to keep traffic flowing. Each of them will wear body-mounted video cameras to record any traffic violations.

Lillan Bligh, who travels through the CBD, from Green Point to Observatory, said going home in the afternoon was a nightmare.

“When the OUTsurance points people are on duty, not all motorists comply and still go over the amber or red light,” she lamented.

“The other day I noticed that when there was a gridlock at the intersection of Buitengracht and Strand streets, the two pointswomen were ‘heads together’ peering onto a cellphone under a tree near the parking lot. Yet, when a Metro police vehicle is visible, they obey.”

She said Fridays seemed to be more gridlocked as more motorists used their vehicles. “Golden Arrow bus drivers are the worst. At the Adderley and Strand Street intersection, they cross over when the light is amber or red, and block two lanes, and this causes a knock-on effect all round.

“Another problem is the mini-bus taxis on the corner of Long and Strand streets, where there is a KFC. The MyCiTi 105 bus stop is there, but the taxis insist on parking there. Then the MyCiTi has to stop in the left lane, blocking traffic.”

Ms Bligh said she was looking forward to free-flowing traffic.

Frank Smit commended the City and the CCID for attempting to alleviate the traffic congestion. However, he said, while it was all being done in Cape Town, there was gridlock in many suburbs too.

“Klipfontein Road is a nightmare to try and cross in the mornings for example, as motorists travelling towards Rondebosch continually block the cross-roads like Jan Smuts.

“The buses from Golden Arrow are also guilty of blocking the whole of the intersection on the corner of Imam Haron and Palmyra roads.”

Mr Smit believes the problem is due to a general disregard for traffic regulations by the public, who are allowed to get away with transgressions on a regular basis due to the lack of policing.

“This applies in particular to traffic lights, which are frequently ignored. It has become the norm that almost every light change sees vehicles going through on red. When they do this in rush hour, they sometimes also block the intersection, causing gridlock.”

He said another aspect to be considered was the timing of the traffic lights. “If they are properly timed, people can drive along a road at the speed limit and pass through unhindered, then traffic flow will be greatly eased and there will be less gridlock too. I am not sure how the timing works in Cape Town central, but in the suburbs one is regularly held up at robot after robot.”

He also believes that policing intersections which are often gridlocked, is a waste of time, unless linked aspects are properly policed. “You will have to have wardens at every intersection all of the time unless it becomes part of driver habits to obey the light signals and the rules of the road.

“Where people see that traffic regulations are properly policed, for example in areas where there are regular or even occasional speed traps, they generally obey the limit, and the traffic continues to flow. Where there is no policing at all, which seems to be the case at almost every traffic intersection, they do what they like.

“It is really not that difficult to solve this problem – the City and traffic authorities need to have just a small number of roving units policing all types of traffic intersection infringements, and issuing immediate fines or other forms of justice. The public need to learn that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated and they will soon stop.”

Gabiba Taliep also applauded the efforts to curb traffic congestion. However, she said, the City must take responsibility for its contribution to gridlock, through, for example, the introduction of MyCiTi buses.

“There is simply no space for another bus service. Even in areas like Milnerton with dedicated bus lanes, the service is ineffective. In single lane suburbs when a MyCiTi bus stops, traffic behind the bus creates a tailback. Drivers get frustrated, which contributes to road rage. Moreover, the buses themselves get caught in gridlock which defeats the purpose of using the service.

“The only way the MyCiTi will be of value is if Golden Arrow is eliminated a public service if there ever was one. Golden Arrow bus drivers take discourtesy to a different level.

“The City has ploughed too many resources into the MyCiTi service to admit they messed it up, or that it is actually a significant contributor to gridlock.”

She said that the bicycle lanes have also caused gridlock. “We do not need bicycle lanes. They are nice accessories but what they are actually doing is making us the most congested city in South Africa. And why do those green lanes have to be repainted every few months? Instead of wasting ratepayers’ money on bicycle lanes used by two cyclists every day, why are they not using it to calm traffic?”

Ebrahim Fredericks had a more controversial suggestion. “Remove the pedestrian-only signal because ever since this was introduced the CBD, traffic has become even worse.

“Pedestrians don’t obey the traffic lights in any case. Instead, they avoid crossing at the traffic lights. The City must review the one-way roads, like Hout Street, where you can only turn left into Adderley Street and then at Strand Street no U-turns are allowed and you are forced into traffic. I suggest opening the island by Hout and Adderley streets so cars can turn right, away from clogging up Strand Street. Also, a fence must be put up in Strand Street so that pedestrians are forced to cross legally by the robot or bridges.”

Bronwen Dyke-Beyer, Golden Arrow public relations manager, said bus drivers are trained not to purposefully block intersections, to obey traffic regulations and to show courtesy to other road users.

“Everyday challenges that our drivers contend with include taxis and other vehicles stopping in or just after intersections to load or offload passengers and cars parking in demarcated bus stop areas. These unfortunately result in buses coming to a stop in inconvenient places and causing frustration for other road users.”

Ms Dyke-Beyer admitted that sometimes their drivers are also at fault. “Our approach is to use our mobile inspectorate to monitor various problem areas on a regular basis and to work closely with traffic services to ensure that issues are dealt with speedily and that our drivers are driving as they should.”

She said the public can email complaints@gabs.co.za with the details of any transgressions, with the bus number, time and location.

The CapeTowner also asked the City of Cape Town to respond to the comments made by our readers who contributed to this article, but by the time this edition went to print, they had not responded.