New circle welcomed

Construction of a traffic circle in Merrydale Avenue has begun after locals had been calling for intervention for the past eight years.

Initiated by ward 81 councillor Daniel Christians and subcouncil 12 chairperson Sheval Arendse, construction is set to be completed later this month­.

“The construction project was scheduled to start on Friday 4 May with the initial completion date being estimated as Friday 29 June. However, it was delayed due to inclement weather, challenges in obtaining the necessary wayleaves and problems with existing services. As a result, the construction period had to be extended and the anticipated practical completion date has been pushed out to the end of August 2018, based on the latest construction schedule,” says Mayco member for transport and urban development (TDA), Brett Herron.

The project is funded by TDA and costs a little over R1.77m

“The project includes the construction of a new roundabout at the Merrydale Avenue/Hazeldene Avenue intersection together with non-motorised transport facilities such as new sidewalks, pedestrian crossings and facilities for visually impaired pedestrians. Both Merrydale Avenue and Hazeldene Avenue will be affected but a traffic accommodation plan has been put in place to ensure traffic safety and to regulate traffic movement,” says Arendse­.

This will be the only traffic calming measures implemented in the street at this stage.

“During the 2016/17 financial year, a new raised pedestrian crossing was constructed at Springdale Primary School to increase pedestrian safety for scholars, and further raised traffic calming measures, consisting of four speed humps and a raised pedestrian crossing, have been approved at both Springdale Primary and Merrydale Primary schools and will be implemented during the 2018/19 financial year,” says Arendse.

Mitchell’s Plain Police Station spokesperson, Captain Ian Williams, says that while they respond to traffic accidents, they do not have any data on the number of accidents at the intersection.

Herron confirms there was a need for the initiative saying: “the process was initiated due to complaints received regarding traffic and pedestrian accidents at the busy Merrydale Avenue and Hazeldene Avenue intersection,” says Herron.

Christians, who has been advocating for the implementation of the calming measures since 2010, says the busy intersection is frequented by scholars, residents using the public transport systems and cyclists.

“At every meeting, I would bring up the topic of traffic calming, because it was an issue raised at every public meeting I had. There was also racing down the road and the need for traffic calming was a contentious issue. The motion was tabled because of the community at large calling for it,” says Christians.

The intersection is outside a community facility, taxi rank and train station and a primary school, says Christians.

Jessica Brown, a resident who frequents the taxi rank, says she has had a few near hits with impatient drivers on Merrydale Avenue.

“Even when we cross at the red robot along the road, you need to look twice because some drivers go right through the red light at hectic speed,” she says.

“Sometimes you see children needing to run or stop in the middle of the road to wait for a speeding car to pass them. It is so dangerous and I hope the crossing and circle will help.”

Christians agrees that the intersection posed a great danger to pedestrians, saying: “We have children who cross the railway line to come to school and they make use of the street.

“We have had many accidents with a woman dying recently at that intersection.”

Christians is referring to Angelique Pheiffer who died when she was knocked over while running away from attackers who threatened her with a zip gun (“Brawl in street after road death”, People’s Post, 15 March 2016).

The driver tried to turn away to avoid the accident but could not stop in time. His car hit Pheiffer, killing her at the scene, police confirmed at the time.

Abdoraof Ismail from the Portland Block Watch says they had been calling for the traffic calming for the past four years and he welcomes the intervention.

“It is dangerous for the old people crossing from the station and the schoolchildren crossing from railway side. We have traffic officers in the mornings and in the afternoons as the traffic and school transport is on our agenda at community meetings,” says Ismail.

Traffic congestion was also part of their Saturday community meeting hosted at Montague Drive Primary School.

“These drivers have no care for other road users. We had so many children knocked over in Merrydale Avenue and the circle will at least calm down the speed they are driving,” he says.

Another resident, Cecil Abrahams, says he is happy to see the circle implemented but he hopes more robots and intersections will be installed along the street.

“There are many schools here and the traffic is crazy in the mornings with children running everywhere. We need to teach children proper road safety as well. People become impatient and drive recklessly,” he says.

The increase in traffic and traffic incidents have seen the block watch implement a volunteer system with several volunteers on the streets in the mornings and afternoons­.

Ismail says the volunteers have also reported unlicensed and unroadworthy vehicles and the constant drag racing along both Merrydale Avenue and Eisleben Road.