October is Transport Month in South Africa. During this month the Department of Transport and its entities showcase transport infrastructure services in aviation, maritime, public transport and roads. Predominately the month is used to further advance the country`s road safety initiatives. This is largely attributed to the number of accidents that happen on our roads and the lives lost. We choose to dedicate Transport Month to a project that we once took part in and a cause that is still close to our hearts dearly- the impact transport has on our environment and our health.
In 2015, the City of Johannesburg (CoJ/City) hosted the Eco-Mobility World Festival. Sadmon Projects and Consulting (renamed Sadmon Social impact Agency) had the privilege of being the City appointed project manager. A festival to remember indeed, because it became an eye-opener to us as an establishment that the environmental health and education communications is critical not only as a business venture but as a Social Impact phenomenon. The EcoMobility World Festival gave us new insights and taught us new approaches to the importance of Eco-friendly mobility. We learned about environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive, ecological mobile transport choices. We became familiar with the concept EcoMobility as referring to enabling citizens and organizations to access goods, services, and information in a sustainable manner, supporting citizens’ quality of life, increasing travel choices, and promoting social cohesion.
EcoMobility is defined as traveling through integrated, socially inclusive and environmentally friendly options; such as walking, cycling (wheeling), the use of public transport and car-sharing. It is also the use of small urban vehicles powered by renewable energy. These transport options meet the needs of most people.
What benefits does a city enjoy should its citizens adopt the idea of being eco-mobile?
- Increase physical activity and keep type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other obesity-related risks low
- Improve road safety by reducing road injuries and fatalities
- Increase energy security by reducing the exposure to high oil prices
- Improve access to transport services, in particular to low-income groups and physically challenged.
- Reduce traffic congestion saving travel time for both people and freight
- Reduce parking spaces and allocate space to more people-centered activities
- Reduce air pollution, respiratory diseases, and noise
- With reduced vehicles comes reduced traffic leading to less road rage in our cities
The idea of the Eco-mobility world festival is to highlight a problem that cities will be facing in the near future and then demonstrate a solution in the form of a festival. The City of Johannesburg set out to highlight this problem and offer a solution through the EcoMobility World Festival. While the project was launched in Sandton City, the current rapid development in Sandton does not seem to have taken hint of Eco-Mobility vision as this part of the metro is notorious for traffic gridlock.
The EcoMobility World Festival 2015 offered a month-long presentation of innovative and forward-thinking urban transportation culture, which were characterised by active street life and social inclusivity. The Festival enabled City residents and visitors from across the globe to experience what a future, car-free precinct would look and feel like.
During the month of October 2015, parts of the Sandton central business district in the City of Johannesburg were decongested, and the streets of Africa’s most vibrant financial hub turned into inviting green spaces that accommodated alternative modes of transport and mobility. Through the EcoMobility World Festival 2015, City of Johannesburg demonstrated to the world that a greener transport future is possible – where public transport, walking, and cycling are accessible, safe and attractive alternatives to private car use in cities. The Festival was also a celebration of innovation and futuristic thinking. It opened eyes to the residents and businesses that the solutions to traffic-jams exist and could be the solutions to daily mobility frustrations.
It was a practical demonstration of how our streets and public spaces can be transformed to preserve our environment and optimise our spaces. The Festival was an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of decongested city centres and how it does not disrupt the everyday mobility needs of the public.
To organise the Festival, Sadmon adopted a three-pronged approach: A bold communication and marketing campaign “Change the way you move” targeted commuters to Sandton CBD and called upon them to abandon their cars and use public transport, take advantage of the park and ride facilities, and to cycle and walk instead.
Promotional material that included: banners at motorways; activists confronting car drivers; newspaper articles, radio, and TV news and adverts; social media messages; approaching commuters through their employers, the corporations based in Sandton. A month-long Urban Reality Lab “A CBD going eco-mobile” included the closure of certain streets, introduction of managed priority lanes, restructuring of traffic flows, installation of bicycle lanes, enhanced train and bus services and more.
EVENTS HOSTED AND MANAGED
THE RESULT OF THE ENTIRE EVENT:
- Over 15 000 people attended at least 10 different large-scale events on the streets of Johannesburg, including the Freedom Ride where over 4000 cyclists participated.
- 47 speakers from more than 20 countries presented at the EcoMobility Dialogues and approximately 500 local government leaders, experts and practitioners attended.
- The EcoMobility World Exhibition was hosted in three places, Sandton, Alexandra and online. The online exhibition showcased over 350 vehicles and received 10 000 visitors. The local exhibition included 30 exhibitors, mainly innovative entrepreneurs. In Alexandra, over 250 learners visited the exhibition daily over
the last week of the Festival.
- Through measures such as dedicated public transport lanes and ten park-and-ride facilities, the Festival successfully reduced the percentage of private cars usage in Sandton by 22% during the month-long EcoMobility challenge according to the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO).
- The metropolitan rapid rail network, Gautrain, increased its ridership from 8.1% to 9.7% between July 2015 and October 2015.
- Compared to a survey done in 2013, five times more people walked along West Street, the street adjoining the Gautrain Station, during the Festival.
- Arising from a partnership with the minibus taxi industry, 100 taxis provided free minibus taxi services as feeders in and around Sandton, as well as from four parks and ride sites.
- Social media disseminated the Festival news globally. The twitter hashtag #joburgecomobility had approximately 26 million impressions.
The participation and success of the festival was a demonstration that it is possible to live an eco-mobile lifestyle.
We, as citizens of a city, need to have the courage and the understanding to park our car and be eco-mobile.