Car-free day - or not...

The South African government has declared today car-free day, encouraging us to rather take the public transport, car-pool or catch a ride with someone else. At least 2 people to a car, if possible more. Doesn't make much difference to me, as I walk to work.

It doesn't seem to have made that much of an impact. Our morning TV show was checking out traffic and such, and it's still just as congested, there is still nearly always only one person to a car, and the bare minimum of the population has embraced the idea.


Well, firstly our public transport sucks. Not only is it irregular, or broken down, or about to break down - most of it is scarily dangerous. I used to take a train to college, my brother did too. These days we wouldn't dare. There are rapes, murders, muggings and serious diseases going around those coaches - which are no longer kept in very good condition, so it's at your risk to sit on something, touch anything, squash up next to a stranger on a seat. Trains only run on certain lines - if you want to be somewhere else, you either have to go way past your destination, then backtrack with another line, or stop off at the nearest station and walk for ages.

Then there's the taxis. In South Africa, this is what they look like - a mini-bus, sometimes in good condition, sometimes falling apart (and driven using a spanner as steering wheel...), always with sound-systems pumping at levels that burst your eardrums if you're stuck in traffic nearby. They are mostly used by the black population (here's a rather amusing article published yesterday as a how-to for those who haven't tried them). They DO go to a lot of places other transport doesn't, at a good price. But with taxi wars (and shoot-outs), dodgy vehicles and dangerous passengers, it's taking your life into your own hands to use them. They are one of the biggest causes of road-deaths in our country. Driven too fast by folk who may or may not have a licence, taking chances overtaking, overloaded, they too easily career into other vehicles, killing as they go. Just driving near them is dangerous enough, thanks. (I have a friend in Johannesburg who has put huge bull-bars on his 4x4, which will do more damage to a taxi cutting in than the taxi will do to him - and it seems to help minimize that kind of behaviour! :) )

Which leaves us with busses. They don't run around this area, and I'm not sure how well they function elsewhere. I remember taking the bus years ago in Cape Town along major routes in the city (mostly covered by trains too), but haven't taken one since - other than in Sydney, where all public transport seems to run pretty well, in good condition!

There are lift clubs - which are illegal still.

What are you left with? Walk, ride a bike, take your car. Not much else.

Until the government steps up their public transport system, I don't think car-free day is going to be a viable option. First fix the infrastructure, and then we'll use it.