The EcoMobility World Festival 2015 brought this fundamental idea of change and inclusion to the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa’s economic capital, transforming the business district of Sandton into a moving picture of what a fast-developing and dynamic world class city such as Johannesburg will look like in a few years’ time, if smart policies are implemented and above all if citizens themselves embrace the change and claim streets and urban spaces for people and not for cars.
|“Johannesburg, Mexico City, and many other cities around the world, have started a mobility revolution, who transform not only the cities by themselves but also brings associated benefits like equity, democracy, human scale, community engagement, healthier, safer streets for children and sustainable solutions to urgent climate change matters.” Iván De la Lanza, Director of Design, Culture and Bicycle Infrastructure, Mexico City, MX
One of the objectives of the Festival was exactly to encourage citizens to change their behaviour and transport choices, by leaving their cars at home and using alternative means of transport, such as public buses and trains, bikes and light electric vehicles, or car sharing and car-pooling options.
It worked. The City of Johannesburg reported a significant increase in the use of public transport and a decrease in private vehicle use during the month-long Festival.
|“The EcoMobility Festival is the moment to showcase alternative modes of transport. Social integration and social cohesion are at the centre of that. We need to build our cities and human settlements in a way that it easily promotes people interacting, walking and cycling” David Makhura, Premier of Gauteng Province.
The Festival also left a lasting legacy to the city. Building on the already impressive transformations in the urban design of Sandton CBD (dedicated bike lanes, refurbished and widened sidewalks, upgrading of public spaces), the Mayoral committee approved further projects based on the experience of the Festival and feedback from residents, which will be implemented in the next couple of years.
But the EcoMobility World Festival was much more than this. It was also an impressive symposium where hundreds of mobility experts and local and subnational government leaders from the five continents had a chance to meet and exchange ideas, projects, best practices, during the EcoMobility Dialogues. Sporting events, bike rides, education programs, concerts and a family day transformed the streets of Sandton into a lively and fun place for four weeks. Citizens and visitors also had the opportunity to test up to 70 ecomobile vehicles at the Exhibition and test track arranged at the Festival area.
Sandton CBD is sometimes called the “richest square mile of Africa”. 80,000 cars move in and out of its core every day. The success of the Festival is a testimony to the ambition and competency of the City of Johannesburg officials who, with support from ICLEI – Local governments for sustainability, organized the month-long event.
|“Our legs are the best mode of transport. We should not forget to use them.” Dipuo Peters, Minister of Transport South Africa
The EcoMobility Festival has sent a message to the world: it is urgent and crucial that we address the issue of climate change and livability of our cities, and it can be done.
|“Ecomobility Festivals are so important. They show how our environment can be changed and our neighbourhoods can be more attractive and sociable. These are things that people can experience on the ground – seeing is believing!” Camilla Ween, Urban Design and Transportation, Director Goldstein Ween Architects, London, UK
This same message will be brought to COP21 by the Executive Mayor of Johannesburg Mpho Parks Tau, who will present the Johannesburg Declaration on Ecomobility in Cities. The Declaration was discussed and endorsed by mobility experts and local and subnational leaders, stressing the simple truth that no GHG emissions reduction strategy will be successful without including low carbon urban transport solutions.
By calling on all spheres of government to do their part in enabling this transition, endorsers of the Declaration show the way forward.
|“Ecomobility is a global cause. Let’s break the boundaries, let’s get out of Johannesburg, join this global cause and get united for Ecomobility!” Amanda Ngabirano Aziidah, Urban and Regional Planner, Lecturer at Makere University Kampala, Uganda
|“Interventions like the EcoMobility World Festival are an interesting test pilot for us, to see what works and what doesn’t work, and how we hardwire the things that do work into policy so that the city continues to be sustainable.”
Yondela Silimela, Executive Director, Johannesburg Department of. Development Planning
The level of ambition on low carbon solutions can only be increased, and it is a matter of years, not decades.
If there is one legacy from the EcoMobility World Festival 2015 is that the city of the future cannot remain a beautiful idea confined to science fiction books and to the minds of visionary architects and urban planners. It needs to become, and it is already becoming, a tangible project and an achievable goal.
|“The recently ended EcoMobility World Festival gave us a glimpse into the future. That is why the City has to move with urgency to address the acute congestion in our streets as that poses a challenge to economic competitiveness and quality of life.”Councillor Christine Walters, Member of the Mayoral Committee for Transport, City of Johannesburg
Johannesburg showed how to successfully take the first steps in this journey. Now, let’s transform the vision into a tangible reality everywhere and for everyone.