Responding to covid-19 and setting the scene for the future

Open Streets Cape Town’s (OSCT) initial strategy for 2020 focused on expanding the Open Streets programme in partnership with local communities, with the view to developing plans for smaller scale demonstrations and interventions around the everyday role of streets and public space.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and like so many other organisations, we have had to rethink our strategy and activities. Our planned OS Day in Mitchells Plain in October 2020 will not be possible and we believe that OS Days will need to evolve to respond to a changed street environment going forward.

Our revised strategy is to focus on collaborative advocacy around streets in Cape Town, engaging with our networks and partners to determine how to develop our programmes.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen many cities taking advantage of the opportunity to create new norms for streets and mobility; from a regulatory and policy side as well as at the grassroots level. There are lots of examples from across North America and Europe of how cities are adjusting to the 'new normal’, but not so many in contexts similar to ours. Here’s a preprint article summarising some of the questions emerging on the topic.

There are various needs and opportunities emerging locally for the negotiation of urban environments, and we are looking at how to respond while still aligning with our vision:

We envisage a world in which streets function as connectors - between people and communities. As places of connection, ‘open streets’ break down social barriers and enable building of new communities. ‘Open streets’ promote sustainable mobility, local economic activity, creative expression, local cultures & values, and healthy recreation; building and sustaining a sense of community and connection.

OS Days have been a powerful platform to demonstrate behaviour change and give people an experience of alternatives for how we live and move together in cities. We now need to pivot and use the same energy and networks in a different way in this emerging ‘new normal’ context, with a focus on collaboration with partners and local communities. The South African government has just announced a phased process for lifting lockdown regulations, with a focus on the economic, health and humanitarian relief aspect.

OSCT has become established as an agile and influential civil society organisation, and we have no doubt that we have an important role in facilitating and inspiring people to renegotiate streets, public space and mobility in our cities while responding to the immediate needs of the COVID-19 crisis.

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Article republished from Open Streets

Photo by Ference Isaacs Photography


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