Scottsville residents walk a perilous path just to get to their local mall, enduring the threat of muggings and the stench of tyres being burnt for their steel wire.
They’re easy prey to gangsters on the unlit 400m path through an industrial area along the Okavango Road interchange, but they say they’re forced to use it because it’s the only way for them to reach Cape Gate Mall.
Some have tried cutting gaps in the N1 fence to avoid running the gauntlet with gangsters but the City closes these.
Residents also complain that there is a steep stairway on the path, which is an obstacle for the elderly. Northern News watched as several elderly people climbed the 22 steps, stopping several times for breath along the way.
Two years ago, three men followed Alfred Stride, 73, from Cape Gate Mall where he had gone to buy takkies. They pushed the former long-distance athlete against a fence on the slope of the Okavango Road interchange and stabbed him before snatching his new shoes.
Mr Stride believes he and other mugging victims are victims of poor planning by the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL).
“Right at the beginning of the mall’s development, we asked for a bridge that is closer, but Sanral built it so far from us. Whoever built that bridge is stupid,” Mr Stride said.
The bridge’s metal railing was also stolen a few years ago.
Adriaan Speelman, 30, a community leader, said the steps on the stairway were too steep even for him, but for someone like Johanna Simon, 68, “it’s a mission”.
Ms Simon said: “People ar too scared to walk alone over the N1 bridge to the mall, so they cut holes in the fence to cross the N1. But they get fined or warned by the traffic service.”
The stretch was patrolled regularly by at least one traffic vehicle, she said.
Mr Speelman said traffic officers stopped residents coming from Loop, Snel and Rembrandt streets from crossing the busy N1.
Joesph Ndukashe said the stairway should be demolished and residents consulted. The City and Sanral had not done that when they built the stairs in 2004.
The Northern News watched Natasha Bell, 40, who had been returning from the mall, struggle to crawl underneath the fence. She said she preferred to do that instead of facing the stairs and the risk of a mugging on the path.
Near the path are charred patches where tyres have been burnt for wire, which is sold to scrapyards.
Referring to this reporter, two men smoking from a broken beer bottle head asked Mr Speelman why he had brought a cop to the area, but he shrugged them off.
Mr Speelman said the City had referred complaints about the pathway to Sanral, arguing that it was the road agency’s responsibility. However, he feels the City should at least be prepared to mediate meetings between Sanral and Scottsville’s residents because their safety is at stake.
Brandan Randen has just moved into the area and works at a cinema at Cape Gate. Before he knocks off at 1am, he has to call Mr Speelman to meet him on the other side of the bridge and see him safely to his home on Rembrandt Street.
Mr Randen said “robberies were waiting to happen” on the pathway.
Brett Herron, mayoral committee member for transport, said the demand for access came against the backdrop of the construction of Cape Gate.
He said Transport of Cape Town (TCT), the City’s transport authority, was set to do a study on the number of pedestrians crossing the N1, the crossing points and “pedestrian-related incidents”, including pedestrians getting run over by cars on the N1, to gauge demand for a pedestrian bridge.
“Should a pedestrian bridge be warranted, a more detailed investigation will be undertaken,” he said.
Residents, he said, had complained that the bridge over the N1, on the eastern side of Scottsville, was too far from both the mall and the neighbourhood.
“Pedestrian movement across the N1 freeway to the new Cape Gate centre was anticipated, and, as such, the design of the bridge crossing the N1 freeway incorporated a pedestrian walkway, provisions for safe crossings of the on- and off- ramps to the N1 freeway, as well as a walkway along the southern side of the N1 freeway leading to the bridge.”
Mr Herron said traffic volumes, high speeds and heavy vehicles on the N1 made it “extremely dangerous” for pedestrians to cross. and a “concern due to the traffic volume during peak periods, the travel speed during the off-peak periods, and the frequency of heavy vehicles”.
Grant Davison, spokesman for Sanral, said “incident data” collected by the Cape Town freeway management system had pointed to a high concentration of pedestrian collisions at the location.
“As such, due consideration was given to pedestrian movement and solved with a series of footpaths and staircases leading to the Okavango Interchange so that pedestrians can safely cross the N1.”
Mr Davison said that as part of the approval of the development, Sanral had asked the City and the developer for a pedestrian management plan, but it never materialised because the City had felt the walkway “was adequate”.
Mr Davision said the stairway complied with the necessary standards and the road agency had received no complaints about it.
The high accident rate in the area, he said, was aggravated by “egregious vandalism to the wire mesh fence, which has been erected to protect the very community for which it was built and requires constant upkeep by tax payers”.
Mr Davison said Sanral planned to replace the fence with a concrete wall.