Open Streets: An exercise in urban resilience and safety

  • 21 Jun 2023 | by ​Siyabonga Khanyile | KwaDukuza Municipality

Open Streets: An exercise in urban resilience and safety – Blog

On 23 June, the KwaDukuza municipality will host our third Open Streets Festival to commemorate World Environment Day, celebrated annually on 5 June. KwaDukuza Open Streets is used as a platform to create awareness about the environmental crises that are mostly caused by human activities and unsustainable patterns of consumption and production. The event seeks to challenge the paradigm of urban mobility that is over-dependent to use cars. At the core of this agenda is the creation of a safe and liveable city which we are supporting through long term plans to transform the city center into a more welcoming, green, and inclusive public space.

Whilst the open street event is used to bring awareness about inclusive urban mobility, it also presents an opportunity for the city to try something new. This year’s event will be used to trial out the idea of adapting King Shaka Street to create a public square in response to the newly built KwaDukuza Museum.

Indeed, the invitation to KwaDukuza residents on Friday is to engage with the municipality’s plans to create a lower emission zone in the city, and to provide input on a CBD regeneration design focused on the area around the museum, the King Shaka Grave and its surroundings on King Shaka Street. Eventually, we are interested in linking with the Peoples Park which offers a safe place for people to play, interact and enjoy.

The design includes prioritising walking and cycling infrastructure over vehicles, and new parking configurations. For any of that to succeed, safety will need to be the bedrock. And so, creating a temporary opportunity for people to experience safe public spaces becomes not just a nice to have but a critical component of the significant investment the municipality is making.

This soft “human infrastructure” is crucial in the development of any large capital investment in our cities. Bicycle lanes and pedestrian walkways are known to aid low carbon mobility, but they only work if people feel safe using them. For that to happen, people need to be encouraged to try them in the first place.


Temporary experiences and programming can help nudge behaviour change, increase ownership and invite public participation; all important in long term change. We are using the concept of an urban living lab which entails showcasing what a safer CBD could look like and how a more liveable and attractive space would encourage people to spend more time in the city. Open Streets is a tool of that long term agenda.

For Friday’s event, we have deliberately selected a location with safety challenges, which is linked to our most important public transportation hub, the taxi rank. Public transport is at the heart of a low emissions zone, and we understand the importance of creating a more enabling environment for that system to thrive.  On Friday, we start a journey to engage other stakeholders to ensure safety becomes a sustained experience and reality in the CBD.

In addition to engaging with our residents, we tap into our peer-to-peer learning networks such as the national CoGTA and GIZ supported Dialogues for Urban Change (D4UC) in collaboration with the GIZ Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention Programme to support the implementation of integrated urban development planning with a focus on social cohesion and accessible public spaces that are inclusive and safe for all. On Friday, we will set up a place for community members to engage with plans and express their ideas and concerns around safety. Our objective is to enhance co-design and participation in the future.

D4UC, is a peer learning network between four South African municipalities (KwaDukuza, City of uMhlathuze, Stellenbosch, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality,) and four German cities (Karlsruhe, Bottrop, Nuremberg, Ludwigsburg) seeking to generate thinking on integrated urban development.

We invite everyone in KwaDukuza and surrounding areas to join us on Friday.

WHERE: King Shaka street between Lindley and Cato Street.

WHEN: 08h00 – 15h00

WHAT: Play, walk, skate, cycle, enjoy safe public spaces, connect with others & co-create the future of the space together.

Siyabonga Khanyile is the Executive Director for Community Services and Public Amenities at the KwaDukuza Municipality

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