By: Grant Hancock

Across the globe major cities are starting to make serious inroads into reprioritising road-space, providing more space for public transit, cycling, and providing a greater focus on pedestrian accessibility and safety. From Bogota to New York City planners are bringing major intersections into the 21st century and implementing the pioneering design standards developed by the Dutch.

Making progress has not, and is still not, easy. Our cities have been planned around the motor vehicle for so long that it takes clarity of vision and a great deal of patience and persistence to change the perceptions of those who stand against change, and those who need to be convinced that change is necessary.

Most people do not realise just how car-centric our city infrastructure is. The first response by many to proposals to reduce street parking, the number of lanes, or reduce speed limits is usually negative. For many it is at first unfathomable that these changes could be proposed, or in any way seen as producing a net positive to society. Yet evidence from across the globe, from major global cities to smaller centres in the developing world, shows that realigning our road space works, and works well!

One of the most common criticisms, especially to projects such as the development of cycling infrastructure is that there is just no space. Let us look at that a bit closer using the example of the important ‘Five-Ways’ intersection in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

What do we see when we look at the satellite image below? A lot of lanes? What else?


You should see those black lines on the road. Those are marks left behind from cars made by drops of oil and exhaust fumes. Looking at them you can see just how much of the massive Five-Ways intersection is being used. You can also see just how much road is hardly being used at all.

Just look at how much space car lanes take up! Central is a densely populated area, being one of the few places in Port Elizabeth with apartment blocks. It is also home to many shops including a major supermarket. But look at how unfriendly this landscape is for pedestrians. If there was ever to be a place in our cities where pedestrians should be prioritised, it would be in a densely packed community such as central. But the roads are wide, the corners have gentle curves so cars don’t have to slow down much, the lines on the road are faded and there is no real protection for pedestrians when crossing the road other than a ‘beg-button’ at the crossing points.

And then of course there is no provision for other forms of transport. In a community such as central, with so many apartment buildings and nearby amenities cycling should be extremely popular. That it is not is not an indictment on the appeal of urban cycling, but on the hostile environment created by car centric infrastructure. Would you take your children cycling down Cape Road or through the massive Five-Ways intersection?

Let us take a look at what Five-Ways could look like if a small investment was made into providing new infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.


First things first, let us reduce the size of the intersection a bit. Making the intersection smaller will have the effect of slowing cars down (which in a highly populated area is no bad thing) lowering the risk of accidents, improving pedestrian safety, and lowering noise.

Next let’s look at putting in some protected cycling lanes. We’ll use best practice design principles and put mono-directional cycle lanes on both sides of the road. We’ll also paint them a bright colour (blue in this case) to provide a strong visual sign that this is a space for cyclists. At intersections this will also provide a sign to vehicles not to trespass onto the blue paint.

Cyclists will use the intersection as if it were a roundabout, traveling clockwise around the intersection remaining on protected infrastructure the entire time and at no point having to move across the intersection into car lanes. This means that motorists and cyclists each of their own space and should not encounter each other. Now there will be those that argue that we should not be putting down cycling infrastructure when so few people cycle. To these people I would point to the countless examples of infrastructure around the world (e.g. London and New York) have seen major increases in cyclist traffic. I would also add my favourite quote by the famous urbanist Brent Toderian: “It’s hard to justify a bridge by the number of people swimming across a river

Turning to pedestrians, we’ll add additional curb space (grey) to further protect the cycle lanes and act as waiting areas for pedestrians wanting to cross the road. These curbs act to narrow the intersection and forces cars to go more slowly around corners. It also means that the distance pedestrians need to walk to cross the road is greatly reduced. This improves accessibility for all pedestrians but especially for the elderly, children, or differently abled who may move slower than the average person.


Next we’ll paint the pedestrian walkways in bright colour (red in this case) to provide a very clear visual signal that this is a pedestrian space on which cars should not trespass when pedestrians have the right of way.

To further simplify the intersection (and thus improve its safety), and to provide additional space for pedestrians let’s close off Park Lane to motor vehicles. We might have to call it Four-Ways in future but there is no reason why access to Park Lane is necessary at Five-Ways. Park Lane and Park Drive beyond it can be accessed easily enough through Dickens Street or King Georges Road where vehicles coming from the opposite direction must already travel due to the Park Lane access road being one directional only. This will free up this section of Park Lane for a small public space.

So what do we have to give up in order to make this happen? Not much at all is the answer. One car lane can be sacrificed on Cape Road (bottom of the image below) where there are a frankly ridiculous 6 lanes in place at the moment. Some on street parking down Cape Road would need to be removed too and car lane widths reduced on other roads to accommodate new cycling lanes.


Those worried about access to shops and apartments needn’t worry too much. Although on  street parking takes up a lot of space visually there are really not many parking bays that would be lost. For example, In the 210 metres between Dickens Street and the Five-Ways intersection there are only 15 parking bays on the one side of the road and 12 on the other. There is even less parking available on the other side of the intersection towards Salisbury Avenue.

Vehicle parking would still remain in Westbourne Road and the side streets, and with some minor investments parking in these roads could easily be increased to compensate for the loss of on street parking. But the loss of a few parking bays should not prevent the development of infrastructure which will fundemantely improve the mobility environment for thousands of pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists.

When teamed with efficent public transport, interventions like these can fundamentally change the shape of our cities, improve public safety, promote more active lifestyles, and reduce pollution. But the issue of our public transport system is a topic in of itself, and for another time.

Our cities are full of examples where  simple solutions and small investments can drastically improved the accessibility and safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The rest of the world is already working on this, we should follow suit. In Nelson Mandela Bay especially we have the potential to dramatically improve our mobility environment and even become leaders in Africa in sustainable mobility.

Let’s get to it!

Desire lines are the informal paths that people take as an alternative to a formal path or provided infrastructure. They come about where the users of infrastructure such as pedestrians deviate from the route provided (such as a paved walkway) to take a more direct route or avoid obstacles. These become entrenched when a significant number of people regularly choose the detour. These lines can be seen in public parks, at universities, and in your neighbourhood.

The image below shows an example of a desire line, where hundreds of people have deviated from the path provided and eventually created a well-worn, yet informal, path across a park.

Desire lines tell us a lot about how people interact with the world around them and how we make decisions.

Importantly, desire lines also tell us a lot about how our infrastructure fails us, where better infrastructure is required, and where new or improved services are warranted.Taking the example of a park, a desire line can come about because planners miscalculated how people would use the park or navigate across it, or because planners foolishly wished people to stick to the path they thought was best, or simply because a change in land use around the park has meant a change in the way people use the park. For example, a new school could open up across from a park and lead to children walking across the park in a direction where there is no path. No matter how these lines came about, their existence should be carefully studied in order to better respond to the needs of those that use them.

The image below shows one patch of veld in the suburb of Algoa Park in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.From this satellite view it becomes apparent how many different paths people take across the veld. In Algoa Park, like in much of Nelson Mandela Bay, most households do not possess their own cars and rely on walking and public transport in order to get to work, to school, or to the shops.

At first these desire lines look like a tangled web of different paths with no apparent sense to them, but with careful inspection the situation becomes clearer and we can begin to understand where people are going to. Here are a few observations I have made:

  • Paths tend to point towards major roads where people can access public transport and minibus taxis.
  • A good portion of the paths tend to terminate at apartment blocks.
  • Many of the lines meet roadways and intersections where there are no pedestrian crossings, or traffic lights to allow pedestrians to safely cross the road.
  • There appears to be significant traffic across the veld and south across the small river valley between Algoa Park and Stanford Road.

It is important to note that there is precious little pedestrian infrastructure on this patch of land, despite it being so obviously well used by pedestrians. Paths such as these don’t emerge overnight, and they take a large amount of foot traffic to become so clearly visible.

The only pedestrian infrastructure that does exist, is on the perimeter of the veld alongside the road. While I’m sure that a large number of people use these pathways every day, it is clear that a great number of people cut through the veld on a daily basis. Should they not be provided with adequate infrastructure?

Upgrading existing public spaces or developing new ones is often seen as a luxury in South Africa. Money would be better spent on housing, or schools, or hospitals… But viewing investments in public spaces as spending money on recreation misses the important role that such spaces play in the mobility environment of our cities.

With better maintained paths, people of this community would be able to get where they were going quicker. Providing paved paths, or well-prepared dirt paths with adequate drainage would mean that people in this community wouldn’t get to work or school with dusty clothes, or muddy shoes when it rains. Providing lighting would dramatically increase the safety of these paths in early mornings and evenings. And investing in appropriate pathways would help to eliminating some of the smaller informal paths and in so doing help to preserve the landscape. This is all in addition to the social and economic benefits that arise from investing in an urban green space

Algoa Park is not unique, across our cities there are countless examples where desire lines and other signs of human activity exist that we can look to in order to improve accessibility, safety, and more.

So what can be done, and how do we get our municipalities to embark on such projects? After all, it is only the municipality who can undertake such projects.

  1. Firstly, communities need to become more engaged in municipal processes. Every ward has regular public meetings where issues such as the above can be raised, and where ward councillors can be requested to raise the issue to the municipality.
  2. Communities need to become more involved in the discussion on how infrastructure is designed, and what measures are put in place. We as residents need to change the way we look at our communities and become more engaged in collecting information, looking for areas of opportunity, and issues to be addressed. Tools like Liveable City’s ‘Map My City’ can greatly assist communities to gather data.
  3. Organise! Get your neighbours on board, form local street committees. Working together we can speak with a louder voice.
  4. Actively promote ideas for positive change in our communities, become involved in local community groups, or join the Liveable City community and become part of a growing community of people interested in making our city better.

Reclaiming Public Space

The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world irrevocably. The way we move around and experience our towns and cities has changed, and even post lock-downs and calls for social distancing it seems clear that there will be some long-lasting changes to our society.

Around the world governments have implemented various policies and initiatives to curb the spread of the virus. While these measures differ greatly, many have adopted strict social distancing policies, lockdowns, and other restrictions on business activities and general mobility.

We’re a few months into the pandemic now and around the world countries and cities are moving on from purely focussing on the virus to also considering the social impacts of these measures and what actions can be taken to improve the quality of life for citizens in a safe way.

Thankfully, many cities have shied away from using the phrase “get things back to normal” and instead looking at what can be improved upon. Normal was not perfect, so focussing on getting things back to the way they were is not only counter-productive, but undesirable. Major world cities and small towns alike have been embarking on new measures to reopen neighbourhoods, public spaces, shops etc. in innovative ways that seek to increase personal freedoms and allow businesses to reopen in a way that is safe and sustainable.

Many of these measures have focussed on increasing personal freedom while still preserving the most important COVID-19 prevention measures. Namely social distancing, and a strict focus on hygiene. Some of the more notable strategies employed include:

  • Widening of pavements / pedestrian walkways to allow for increased social distancing for pedestrians.
  • Narrowing roadways / reducing the number of lanes and turning over space to cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Closing off streets strategically to create plazas and open streets to allow restaurants to reopen with increased public seating and allowing residents more space to exercise and socialise while maintaining social distancing.
  • Promoting cycling and walking over motor traffic
  • Mandatory wearing of masks
  • Investing in expanded public transit with increased hygiene protocols.
  • And the introduction of strict operating guidelines for businesses.

Opening Streets

One of the more interesting initiatives is taking place in The Netherlands called Vakantiestraat (Holiday Street) The European summer is fast approaching, and this would usually mean a lot of people taking time off to go on vacations, or just spending more time outside in public parks, beaches, restaurants etc. In a COVID-19 world, this poses a major problem for social distancing. The Dutch solution is to close streets strategically to create recreational streets for people to play, relax, and socialise. These mini-parks will be filled with new seating, playground equipment, street-food vendors, green space and more.

Streets without any changesSource:

Streets with some basic changes Source:

Street fully opened for leisure and socialisingSource:

The approach used in each city around the world is different and unique to their own individual contexts. We might not face the exact same challenges as the Netherlands, or the USA, or the UK, but there are many lessons to be learned about how we can redistribute space to maximise public benefit.

This echoes some of the other great work done around the world as part of the growing Open Streets movement, where streets are partially or permanently closed to vehicle traffic and opened to everyone else. From New York City to Windhoek, open streets are rapidly gaining popularity and finding massive support from their local communities.

This pandemic is proving to be immensely costly, both in terms of the loss of life and the impact on the economy and the social fabric. But these difficult times can also be the spark required for us to re-examine how our cities are designed, how space is allocated, and what changes we can make to ensure our cities function better not only during this time of crisis, but after this virus has passed into memory.

 Growth in Urban Cycling

One interesting development over the past few months has been the rapid growth of urban cycling. From countries with strong cycling cultures such as the Netherlands to those where cycling is not that common, such as in the United States of America, bike shops are struggling to keep up with the demand for bikes. This is due to numerous factors linked to COVID-19. People are avoiding public transport in favour of cycling to ensure adequate social distancing. Families stuck at home are seeking ways to get their kids out the house, and cycling is more fun than walking and allows kids and parents to better explore their neighbourhoods. Another reason is that since people are being encouraged in many instances to remain within their neighbourhoods a bicycle is a good alternative to the car to make short trips to the shops.

With the upsurge in cycling, many large cities have taken swift action to create new cycleways. This has been done in many cases by handing one lane of a roadway over to cyclists or reducing the width of an existing roadway with traffic cones, paint, or other objects to create a safe space for cyclists.

 Surely Cars are the Safest Way to Move Around?

No. It might seem a bit counterintuitive, but personal motor vehicles do not necessarily improve safety. There might be a small gain to the individual, but the motorist will still have to park and get out of their car. And then they will be on the same crowded walkway or standing in the same crowded plaza as everyone else. Cycling or walking with a mask on presents no greater risk of infection than riding in a car. What matters is the amount of space provided at the start and end of every trip.

Increasing the amount of space people have available implement social distancing is the key. For the number of people that cars transport they take up a lot of space. Redistributing space, taking it away from motor vehicles and handing it over to other road users is simply the smartest alternative.

This doesn’t mean we should ban cars or close every roadway, but look for opportunities to create as many open streets as possible, closing down non essential roadways to through traffic and providing people with safe spaces to cycle, walk, and relax.

Open Spaces Key for Business

Another trend emerging is the reprioritisation of urban space specifically to allow businesses to reopen, especially restaurants. Restaurants may not be the most essential business category on the face of it (we can all get food without going to an eatery), but restaurants, fast food outlets, and street vendors are significant sources of employment. Furthermore, they are part of our social fabric providing not only a place to get food but also provide spaces for recreation, relaxation, and socialising.

Cities around the world are finding a cheap and simple solution to the problem of reopening restaurants while also promoting social distancing through repurposing public spaces and closing streets to cars in strategic locations. In many places you can now find streets full of tables adequately spaced apart for people to enjoy meals and socialise without comprising their own or others safety.

As South Africa gradually emerges from lockdown, we will need to look at solutions like this to get our restaurants back up and running.

What about Nelson Mandela Bay?

With lockdown still in effect, this is the perfect time for us to reallocate space to provide people with more safe spaces to move around in. This is an especially good time to consider closing selected streets to traffic and redistributing road space to provide more room for cyclists and pedestrians. Traffic levels are still suppressed due to many businesses still being under lockdown. Making changes now will allow citizens to gradually adjust while traffic levels are suppressed

Improving public transport and cycling / pedestrian infrastructure so people to provide people with improved options when they return to work.

A good example of what a closed street could look like is the Stanley Street area in Richmond Hill. This area boasts the highest density of restaurants and eateries in Nelson Mandela Bay, but most of these venues are relatively small with densely packed seating. This poses a significant challenge once restaurants begin to reopen as social distancing rules will still likely remain for quite some time.

The best way forward could be to close Stanley Street and or Bain Street to motor vehicles to allow diners to spill out into the roadway. This might create some disruption at first, but diners will soon get used to walking an extra block to get to their destination. Residents would still be allowed to enter and exit, only at reduced speeds and perhaps using a one-way system to provide as much space as possible to pedestrians and diners.

The best thing about these and the other solutions mentioned is how incredibly fast, and affordably they can be put in place. A bit of paint, some traffic cones, a few flower boxes, and a good plan can reshape an entire street in one afternoon.

The coming months will continue to be challenging. Even once the strictest phases of lockdown are over, we are still likely to face numerous restrictions and social distancing policies. We can either look at these as insurmountable problems, or we can act now to craft practical solutions that can maintain public safety while dramatically improving the quality and quantity of our public spaces.



Last week I attended the Smarter Mobility Africa conference in Pretoria where I formed part of a panel discussing how new technology and smarter mobility can help create more liveable cities.

The conference was a wonderful chance to meet and interact with the leading voices in the mobility environment in South Africa. tI was also an opportunity to hear about the latest developments in electronic vehicle technology, and developments affecting the mobility environment across South Africa.

Most of the speakers and panel discussions revolved around new technology and discussing the introduction and adoption of electronic vehicles in South Africa. Electric vehicles are definitely an improvement on internal-combustion engine using vehicles, and stand to make a massive contribution to cleaning up the air in our cities. Electric vehicles will not, however, solve any of our other mobility problems including congestion, spatial planning, pedestrian and cyclist safety, or improve the efficiency of urban transport systems.

Our panel discussion was over all too quickly and we could only briefly touch on the core topics relating to mobility and its impact on the quality of life in our cities. Hopefully future events will allow more time for the discussion of urban design, public transportation, urban cycling, and  other key issues.

I’m happy to report that Liveable City was received amazingly well. Over the two day conference, I met with a great many passionate and influential people who are eager to collaborate with Liveable City to share knowledge and experience, and partner to achieve our goal of changing the way we design our cities.

Now more than ever, I’m filled with passion and a true sense that Liveable City can and will make a major contribution to improving South African cities.


September 10, 2019

Welcome to Liveable City

Liveable City is a non-profit company with the goal of making our cities better places for all who call it home by championing the ideals of sustainable urban development, connected communities, and safe & accessible transport systems and infrastructure.

To achieve this goal, we are assembling a team of stakeholders involved in the planning and design of our city to collaborate towards identifying critical challenges and putting forward practical solutions to enable our cities to function better for all.

Critical issues Liveable City will focus on:

The core focus of Liveable City is to address how we move around our cities. Mobility is a key factor in the liveability of any city. The degree to which we can move safely, efficiently, and enjoyably around our urban spaces has a major impact on our experience of our cities, towns, and suburbs.

Viewing urban design and community well-being through the lens of mobility opens up discussions about numerous other factors such as settlement planning, service delivery, economic development, education accessibility,  and more.

The list below shows just some of the issues Liveable City will address:

  • Urban mobility
  • Public transport
  • Transport safety
  • Promotion of cycling and cycling infrastructure
  • Pedestrian safety and promotion of walkability in planning
  • Community development
  • Urban design & architecture
  • Spatial and settlement planning
  • Accessibility
  • Economic development
  • Service delivery

So what does Liveable City do?

Liveable City is here to start discussions, aid in research, and make positive contributions for the betterment of our cities and communities. Below are some of the practical ways in which Liveable City aims to change the way our cities are designed.

Platform for Collaboration

Liveable City provides a platform for professionals in the realm of infrastructure design, urban planning, transport system design, as well as individuals and entities active in promoting improved urban mobility and safety to network and collaborate.

Through this platform, all role players have an opportunity to share ideas and perspectives on sustainable urban development and mobility. The platform also allows for individuals from different sectors and backgrounds to share their respective challenges. Through this platform it is hoped that professionals in the urban design realm can develop a better understanding of what it takes to develop a Liveable City, and that practical solutions can be identified for the problems faced by our cities, suburbs, and streets.

Map My City

One of the things Liveable City is most proud to present is the Map My City initiative. The initiative will allow the general public to contribute to a growing data set of information on a host of traffic and transport related items affecting the ‘liveability’ of our cities.

Key to the success of the Map My City initiative is input from the general public. By working together we can gather data at an incredible rate and quickly identify problems. The goal of Liveable City is to use this information as a powerful communication tool to lobby for key role-players in urban-design and transport infrastructure to design, upgrade, and construct better infrastructure to make our city a safer and more enjoyable place to live.

At the outset, Map My City will showcase important data such as:

  • Number of pedestrian, cycling, and motor vehicle related traffic incidents
  • Location and information on poorly designed / unsafe road infrastructure affecting all road users.
  • Highlight ongoing infrastructure development projects, with a view to monitoring impact on mobility and safety.
  • Showcase key landmarks such as schools and hospitals in order to put road design and traffic management initiatives into perspective
  • Show results of traffic surveys including numbers of vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists on major mobility routes within the city.

Liveability & Mobility Surveys

Liveable City is active in undertaking surveys and gathering data relating to perceptions of safety across our transport system, perceptions of public transport, cycling, and pedestrian infrastructure, data on cycling, and data on impacts and effects resulting from infrastructure developments. The three major areas Liveable City will focus on are:

  • Community Surveys
  • Traffic Surveys
  • School Surveys
  • Business Surveys

Liveable City Blog

Liveable City brings together experts from various sectors to contribute to our blog on issues including urban development, inclusive mobility systems, improving liveability in our towns and cities, community development, and many other issues.

Liveable City also provides updates of key initiatives and infrastructure projects relating to urban development and mobility, making sure that no poorly designed initiative goes unnoticed, and that all positive developments are celebrated. Lastly, Liveable City presents the latest news in the realm of urban development and inclusive mobility from around the world.

Sustainable Development & Mobility Consulting

Liveable City stands ready to work with all stakeholders involved in infrastructure development as well as the design of mobility initiatives, to ensure that projects consider all of the potential impacts on society, and have the maximum potential impact on improving the liveability of our cities.

Liveable City also provides services catering to businesses, schools, and other organisations looking at improving the accessibility of their properties, improving the infrastructure for cyclists, and designing systems and programmes which promote active transportation (walking and cycling) and the use of public transport

As a motorist, I can understand  that sometimes it is easy to forget that we share the roads with other people. While drivers of motor vehicles appear to outnumber other road users, as motorists we often forget that others utilise our roads to go about their lives. Challenging our perceptions of other road users could only be beneficial. Increased understand and some empathy can go a long way in reducing incidents on our roads.

In this series of blog posts, we will look at how we perceive other road users in relation to vehicle drivers. Cyclists, pedestrians, taxis and busses will all be examined.

A recent study published has revealed that drivers often dehumanise cyclists which can lead to aggressive behaviour towards them (Delbose, Naznin, Haslam & Haworth, 2019). Around half of non-cyclists surveyed held the view that cyclists are ‘less than fully human’. This dehumanising behaviour correlated with aggressive attitudes towards cyclists. The study further points out that a significant minority of cyclists reported harassment and aggression towards them from drivers.

Aggressive behaviour and a lack of compassion for fellow road users is especially prevalent in South Africa. Numerous cases of tragic incidents involving cyclists are reported each year. The Road Traffic Management Corporation stated that the road deaths among cyclists climbed from 320 in 2015 to 451 deaths in 2016. These cases are often emotive and lead to questions regarding our own humanity. This was especially the case in the high-profile death of Burry Stander in 2013.

Interestingly enough, when this article was reported on in South African media, comments sections further highlighted the anger towards cyclists who share the roads with other road users. Many commenters claimed that cyclists are a nuisance to other road users and should not even be allowed on the roads. Indirectly, many dehumanising comments were made with regards to how to deal with “problem” cyclists. While many other comments did rightly call out this behaviour, there was a clear form of displeasure aimed at cyclists.

Many arguments against cyclists revolve around flawed logic such as not paying for access to roads like cars do, no identifying plates like on cars, bad cycling habits and cyclists not needing licences to travel on roads. This licensing argument has two components. This first is that cyclists are not tested for competency before travelling on public roadways. The second is that cyclists do not pay their fair share for use of roads. GeorgiaBikes indicates that while education for cyclists is important, there are methods other than licensing to achieve this. With regards to cyclists paying their fair share for use of the roads, the majority of cyclists are themselves owners of motor vehicles and pay taxes.  All money earned through VAT, PAYE, fuel tax etc is added to the fiscus and distributed to various areas such as roads and transport as stated in the budget. Cycling also does far less damage to roads as they are lighter and place less pressure on the asphalt. Furthermore, cycling contributes more positive externalities than driving cars. More cars on the road contributes to traffic, CO2 emissions while more cyclists on the road mean less CO2 and improved health of riders. Finally, cycling is inherently less dangerous than driving cars. A fall on a bike is far less dangerous, in most cases, than a collision in a car. Clearly, cycling is not a negative force on our roads and we need to understand that they form part of the transport solution.

We need to change our perceptions towards those who utilise the roads. We should encourage more people to cycle, take public transport, and walk. This has numerous benefits for transport in the city and for the public in general. By demonising or discouraging other road users we end up with more cars on the road and more traffic.

This is a question which far too few people seem to be asking, especially those involved in planning. Numerous planning and strategy documents exists which set targets for the future economy of the city, research the need for housing, gauge the future demand on infrastructure etc. but alarmingly very few planning documents in any of South Africa’s municipalities attempt to take a complete view of the future. More often than not, these documents produce a glimpse at only one aspect of the future, such as population growth, and employment growth, but stop short of interpreting what that really entails for the future of our cities.

With regards to transport, what would happen to our roads if the population of Nelson Mandela Bay had to increase by 30%?

RAMP Economics has assisted with a simple model on private automobile ownership for 2019, 2029, and 2039. The model forecasts population growth while maintaining the same distribution of income, employment, and vehicle ownership ratios.

It is estimated that in 2019 there are 346 877 households in Nelson Mandela Bay. The most recent vehicle ownership statistics shows that only 36% of households possess a private automobile. That equates to 123 534 households. Note that this is not the total number of cars, but merely the number of households that own a car. As many households will own more than one automobile this represents the absolute minimum number.

At current population growth rates, by 2029 the population of Nelson Mandela Bay is forecast to reach ± 1.38 million people and ± 401 000 households. Assuming the same distribution of car ownership, this will result in an increase of at least 19 400 cars on our roads. By 2039, just 20 years from now, conservative estimates show an increase of 41 700 car owning households. This represents a 33% increase in the number of personal automobiles.

More alarming is that these figures do not consider any improvements in quality of life, household income, employment etc. No government, no municipality, and indeed no community wishes for things to merely stay the same. It is far too often a failing of public sector planning that no consideration is given to the possibility that the planning may, in fact, render a positive result! So let us assume that over the next 20 years, the Nelson Mandela Bay economy will improve, jobs will be created, communities uplifted, and household incomes increase. Now what?

It is only logical to conclude that, if nothing changes, more people will wish to purchase cars should their incomes rise. Across all strata of our society car ownership is as much a status symbol and an aspirational goal. So what happens to car ownership if unemployment is reduced by 10%, or incomes rise by 10%. We’ll save the detailed analysis for another time, but it should be clear that regardless of what happens over the coming years that there will be a lot more cars on our roads.

So how do we prepare for this? Well one thing is for sure, building more roads and freeways will not be sufficient to address the problem of rising traffic. A future blog will delve deep into this topic and demonstrate why the development of more road capacity does not solve traffic problems.

Across the world major cities have grappled with this same issue and increasingly are abandoning the outdated car-centric view on planning. More and more, cities are acknowledging the critical role of public transport and cycling in reducing traffic and moving people about our cities safely and efficiently.

Like its larger cousins, and like so many major cities around the world, Nelson Mandela Bay will have to face the consequences of rising populations sooner or later. Fortunately, and this can not be said of many cities around the world, Nelson Mandela Bay has the opportunity to solve the problems of tomorrow before they even occur. It was not long ago that Nelson Mandela Bay was regarded as the 15 minute city. While this may not be strictly true anymore, with adequate planning and smart investment Nelson Mandela Bay can quite easily cement itself as the most convenient city for travel in South Africa.

February 20, 2019

Map My City

One of the things Liveable City is most proud to present Map My City. The Map My City services allows anyone the ability to contribute to a growing data set of information on a host of traffic and transport related items affecting the ‘liveability’ of our cities.

At the outset, Map My City showcases important data such as:

  • Number of pedestrian, cycling, and motor vehicle related traffic incidents
  • Location and information on poorly designed / unsafe road infrastructure affecting all road users.
  • Highlight ongoing infrastructure development projects, with a view to monitoring impact on mobility and safety.
  • Showcase key landmarks such as schools and hospital to put road design and traffic management initiatives into perspective
  • Show results of traffic surveys of including numbers of vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists on major mobility routes within the city.

Traffic Incidents

Map My City will capture and map data relating to traffic incidents, especially those relating to pedestrians and cyclists. Incidents involving cyclists and pedestrians are severely under-reported. Very often, when cyclists are knocked down, or a crash occurs due to a pot-hole, or a pedestrian is mugged, these incidents are not reported. Map My City will focus on making sure these events are recorded. By allowing members of the public to log such events, we will not only gain a better picture of where problems are occurring the most, but what types of incidents are happening, what the contributing factors are, and generally gain much deeper insight into traffic incidents affecting vulnerable road users than ever before. Armed with this information, compelling arguments can be made to local municipalities and other stakeholders in infrastructure design to ensure that things improve.

Identify Poorly Designed Infrastructure

Very often the reasons for traffic incidents are not bad or drunk driving, but the design of our roadways themselves. Efficient infrastructure design improves safety, accessibility, and efficiency of travel for all road users. Pot holes in our streets cause cars to swerve putting other motorists and pedestrians at risk. Damaged or non-existents sidewalks mean pedestrians are forced into busy streets. A lack of adequate cycling infrastructure results in conflict between cyclists and motorists. Even aspects such as a lack of street lighting can be included, as poor lighting is directly linked to elevated occurrences of muggings and other petty crimes.

Map My City will allow for members of the public to identify poorly designed or dangerous infrastructure. Through a concerted effort to identify poorly designed infrastructure we can improve accessibility and safety for all road users, and hopefully prevent fatal traffic incidents before they take place.

Highlight Key Infrastructure Projects

Map My City will allow for the monitoring of new transport infrastructure projects, and renovation projects. By collecting sufficient data on road traffic incidents, and user perceptions of safety and accessibility, Liveable City can determine if infrastructure projects are having the desired effects on urban mobility and general quality of life. Most often only road traffic is taken into consideration when designing road infrastructure, and when monitoring its impact. Map My City will ensure that a complete picture of the impact of new road projects are recorded.

Showcase Key Landmarks

Designing efficient transport systems is not all about reducing the travel time for motorists. Ensuring the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, and providing accessible infrastructure for the most vulnerable road users is critical to building a liveable city. Nowhere is this more evident than around schools, hospitals, places of worship etc. Effective road designs don’t just account for pedestrians by providing crossing points or speed-bumps, but take a holistic approach to infrastructure design. This includes the width of the roadway, designing with the goal of reduced speed, improving visibility, providing accessible parking, and ensuing accessibility for the elderly and disabled.

Map My City will aim to draw attention to these important hotspots for pedestrian traffic, making it clear just how many points there are in our cities where road design should be carefully considered, and where road infrastructure upgrade projects are required.

Traffic Survey

Liveable City will be active in collecting data on the pedestrian and cycling traffic in our cities especially in high risk areas. Map My City will display this data for anyone to see. As traditionally only motor traffic data is considered, this data will allow for municipalities to have a more holistic view when designing road traffic infrastructure. This will ensure that all road users are considered when designing and upgrading transport infrastructure and public spaces. Furthermore, Liveable City’s traffic surveys will monitor the impact of changes in our built environment to assess the success of new infrastructure projects.

Key to the success of the Map My City initiative is input from the general public. By working together we can gather data at an incredible rate and quickly identify problems. The goal of Liveable City is to use this information as a powerful communication tool to lobby for key role-players in urban-design and transport infrastructure to design, upgrade, and construct better infrastructure to make our city a safer and more enjoyable place to live.

Map My City is in live beta right now! Go to

For more information on Map My City or other initiatives of Liveable City, please visit our website at