Open Streets

Photo Credit: Lisa Burnell, Cape Town Partnership


The Open Streets initiative is a citizen-driven initiative working to change how we use, perceive and experience streets. It works to challenge the paradigm of urban mobility by carrying out campaigns, temporary interventions, dialogues and walks that raise citizen awareness, spark public debate, and ultimately drive behaviour change around the role of streets in the life of the city. The flagship programme, which launched the organisation, is a series of Open Streets Days that are spreading across Cape Town.

Open Streets Days take inspiration from the Bogotá Ciclovía, a recreational programme that creates 120 km of car-free streets in the Colombian capital every Sunday and public holiday. More than 400 cities around the world have followed suit with their own versions of streets that provide space for recreation and social interaction. Open Streets Cape Town (OSCT) is the first formal Open Streets programme in Africa, offering a practical way to help bridge the city’s social and spatial divides. The aim of Open Streets is to create shared spaces that bring people together, no matter who they are or how they move, for a more equitable, integrated, safer and vibrant Cape Town.

In 2016 OSCT partnered with the Green Trust to help create a new mindset about movement on city streets. This is an exciting development as we continue to explore the potential of our streets and the power of experiential learning in promoting sustainable transportation. The main goal of this project is to increase the use of public and non-motorised transport by challenging the perception that car ownership is inevitable in South Africa.

Specifically, we are working to:

  • scale up Open Streets Days and institutionalise them as a programme within local government;
  • roll out a series of public awareness campaigns with partners in the sphere of transportation that challenge perceptions of safety and usability of lower-carbon urban transport modes;
  • produce and disseminate a series of policy briefs that contribute to local policy formulation; and
  • build on the success of our Talking Streets walks as opportunities to compile first-hand information about individual transport behaviour, and elicit feedback on particular parts of the city and from interest groups.

Transport accounts for 50% of the energy consumption in Cape Town and 27% of the city’s carbon emissions. That’s why we believe these activities can be a catalyst for decreasing the city’s carbon footprint. Using an empowering model that invites people to experience streets and modes of transport differently, OSCT highlights opportunities for individuals to address climate change. Our research and the experiential learning provided by a regular citywide programme of Open Streets Days, achieved in collaboration with city officials and public awareness campaigns, can help set the stage for a paradigm shift in urban mobility.