On 11 November, Professor Marianne Vanderschuren presented the 68th Snape Memorial Lecture online to 90 delegates. Her lecture was titled “Is transport planning and implementation failing 75% of our citizens?”
Professor Snape was born in Manchester in 1881, where he went to school and university. At the age of 19, he graduated and went to work as a Municipal Engineer for ten years, before coming to South Africa. As an academic, he started work at the South African College (in 1918 became the University of Cape Town), where he graduated an increasing number of students. Within a year of arriving in South Africa, Professor Snape became a member of the Cape Society of Civil Engineers (now SAICE); he served as the secretary (1912-1913), became the president (1916) and in 1936 he was the founding member and president of the Town Planning Association. In 1946, while still active at UCT and learned societies, Professor Snape passed.
In her lecture, Professor Vanderschuren disseminated the status-quo on transport planning and implementation in the South African context. She split the South African population into adults and children, persons with disabilities and males and females. She unpacked the specific transport planning and implementation for these groups, or the lack thereof.
Professor Vanderschuren showcased that there are transport planning documents to accommodate persons with vision impairments. However, practical examples from Pinelands and UCT itself showcased that implementation is in accordance with requirements.
Newly implemented tactile paving in Pinelands
Entrance of the New Engineering Building, UCT
For people with mobility challenges, the situation is not much better. Although planning documents, in South Africa, spell out the requirements, often you will find stairs without ramps and uneven pavements.
For grant holders (old-age or disability) it is even worse. Planning documents are nowhere to be found, and the news has reported that pensioners have perished while queuing for their grants. Children face the same. Although internationally, there is an increase in attention to the design of child-friendly streets, South Africa is not following that example, leading to children becoming road fatalities and caught in (gang) violent situations. Furthermore, there is a lack of female conscious transport planning documents, leading to personal security risks and (verbal and sexual) harassment for females.
Compared to our African neighbours, South Africa is not the most advanced, when it comes to transport planning for vulnerable population groups. Tanzania has the largest number of transport planning documents for vulnerable population groups.
When analysing transport planning documents for abled adult males, it is abundantly clear that private car users are supported, while walking and cycling are less supported and public transport hardly at all. This is also apparent in practice. Professor Vanderschuren concludes that more than 75% of our citizens are not appropriately catered for in transport planning and implementation.
Professor Vanderschuren ended her lecture with a reflection on transport planning. She concluded that transport planning started from white males for white males and South Africa has not transformed at the pace of other countries and continents. This white male legacy stems back to the times that Professor Snape lectured at UCT. No females were taught engineering in those days, although other faculties did include some female students. It is not clear whether this was a conscious decision on the part of Professor Snape or a sign of the times. Professor Vanderschuren would like to build on Snape’s legacy by working towards a transformed transport planning situation and university.
The Department of Civil Engineering is part of the Faculty of Engineering & the Built Environment (EBE) at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.