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Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa covers a land area of 1,221,037 km2, with an extensive network of 154,000 km of paved roads and roughly 600,000 km unpaved roads. The national highway agency (SANRAL) governs 3.6% of the road network, the provincial governments manage 43.8%, the metropolitan governments have 10.8%, and the local municipalities have the remaining 41.9%. The country has 13 million registered vehicles, 10.5 million private vehicles, 350,000 mini-buses, 65,000 buses, 350,000 motorcycles, and 400,000 trucks.

Cape Town, South Africa’s second-largest city, had 4.5 million residents in 2017 but is situated within a broader spatial and economic functional region, including the towns of Stellenbosch, Grabouw, Paarl, Saldanha, and Malmesbury. Cape Town is implementing seven demonstration pilots, of which one is a training intervention and a second one a media campaign competition, which both will follow the planning and implementation of the other five practical Demos.

Initial road safety challenges

South Africa had at least 10,611 fatal vehicle crashes in 2021, resulting in 12,545 fatalities, a fatality rate of 20.85 per 100,000 population and 10,69 per 10,000 vehicles. 42% of the fatalities were pedestrians, 28% were passengers, 29% were drivers, and 1% were cyclists. 85% of fatalities were due to human factors, 11% to road or environmental factors, and 4% to vehicle factors. The leading human factor was jaywalking (32%), single-vehicle overturn (22%), hit-and-run (14%), and head-on collisions (9%).

The highest road or environmental factor was a wet/slippery road surface (2.5%), and the vehicle factor was burst tires (2.5%). It is estimated that the cost of crashes in South Africa in 2021 is R188,3 billion (~€10.5 billion). The road crash data is collected by the South African Police Services (SAPS), certain Provincial Traffic Authorities, as well as Metropolitan and local authorities. This data is then gathered by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC) through the National Accident Register (NAR) or the National Fatal Accident Information Centre (NFAIC). The NFAIC has a 24-hour response rate for fatal crash registration, whereas the NAR collates information on all road traffic accidents, reporting within six weeks of the crash. Furthermore, in-depth studies are conducted on serious crashes involving five or more fatalities, and more than 100 studies are conducted yearly.

Motorization has grown in Cape Town in line with many peer cities in middle-income countries to the point that 51% of residents now have a direct or indirect reliance on private vehicles for their peak-hour work commute, with vehicle ownership doubling in the city in the last 15 years. However, the peak hour modal split across the city is highly variable, with private vehicles accounting for as high as 80% in some areas and as low as 30% in others, influenced by income, trip patterns, and transport availability. The formal bus and rail networks, legacies of the apartheid mobility system, have deteriorated substantially due to aging infrastructure and underinvestment. Rail usage in Cape Town has halved recently due to a lack of rolling stock and low reliability. Paratransit, informal public transport services proliferated to cater to the increasing demand and decreasing supply of access by bus and rail. The lowest income quartile in Cape Town spends 27% of their disposable income on public transport, on average.

Demo-action 1: Pedestrian highway crossing behavior

In this demonstration project, a video streaming algorithm for pedestrian crossing behavior on two highways is developed. The aim is to establish gap acceptance behavior, amongst others, to inform road safety interventions. This demonstration project includes users, the road and roadside, vehicles, as well as speeds. There is potential for the study to inspire a program of low-cost interventions that help make the environment safer in Cape Town. The Demo’s output is an algorithm based on assessing video footage of two highways in Cape Town, totaling around 10 km of road. Once the algorithm is developed, the findings will be translated into practical interventions.

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