Camps Bay undergoes major road upgrade, short-term irritation, long-term benefit for Capetonians!


Camps Bay Drive sign on Camps Bay Drive facing T-junction 2 Whale CottageWith minimal notice to the residents and businesses of Camps Bay, using nothing more than media statements, the City of Cape Town announced the closure of a large part of Camps Bay Drive, due to R20 million roadworks undertaken between the Geneva Drive and Houghton Road turn-offs for the next five months, which commenced a week ago. Speaking to a selection of businesses, the Victoria Road restaurants have felt little or no impact of the roadworks on their business, while guest houses in the suburb appear to be taking some strain.  The long-term benefit for not only Camps Bay, but for Cape Town in general, is recognised.

In the days leading up to 20 April, the start of the roadworks, the City of Cape Town hastily put up yellow signs all over Camps Bay, to recommend routes to Bakoven and Hout Bay, and to the ‘CBD‘ (would a foreigner visiting our city understand what ‘CBD’ means?).  Without permission or warning, the City of Cape Town dug out the vygies on our pavement garden, to erect such a sign on Camps Bay Drive. An interesting recommendation is as one comes down Geneva Drive, which is taking the brunt of the traffic now that it cannot go down Camp Bay Drive, is to turn left into Camps Bay Drive to get to Bakoven and Hout Bay, instead of sending the traffic down the short section of Camps Bay Drive, and turning left at the traffic light at Seeff, into Victoria Road, a much quicker way to get onto Victoria Road. It smacks of a City bureaucrat sitting in the City of Cape Town headquarters who does not know Camps Bay, in creating directions without having visited the suburb!   Geneva Drive was not upgraded prior to the roadworks program, itself being in bad condition, the City of Cape Town having a poor record in Cape Town in the quality (or lack of) of closing trenches and retarring roads when they have to cut trenches on existing roads – we counted 21 poorly patched sections of Geneva Drive, each patched section being lower than the existing road surface!

The roadworks on Camps Bay Drive will be the first in 30 years, to a road that carries about 14000 vehicles per day, and will include the following elements, according to a media statement from the City of Cape Town:

‘The project entails the following:

  • Camps Bay Drive will be widened by 1,4 metres on the Table Mountain side between Geneva Drive and Rontree Avenue
  • The centre line of Camps Bay Drive will be shifted by 0,7 metres, effectively widening each lane by 0,7 metres
  • The road surface will be improved by removing the top surface (25 cm) and replacing it with recycled material and asphalt
  • Some of the sharp corners along Camps Bay Drive will be slackened to allow for the safe passage of buses in opposite directions
  • There will be no widening of the road between Rontree Avenue and Houghton Road, but the road surface will be rehabilitated along this part of Camps Bay Drive
  • The damaged culvert on Victoria Road in Bakoven will be replaced and this will require a stop-and-go controlled traffic accommodation at this section of the road’

Since the City introduced the MyCiTi Buses in Camps Bay in 2013, coupled with the growing demand for the Hop On Hop Off City Sightseeing bus, Camps Bay Drive has taken a beating, not to mention the increased traffic using the road to get to and from Hout Bay. The MyCiTi Bus 106 will continue its service between Camps Bay and the Civic Centre. Bus 107 has been changed into a shuttle bus operating within Camps Bay only, allowing one to reach the sections of the suburb on the mountainside of Camps Bay Drive from Victoria Road.  On a Stop/Go basis, residents in the first part of upper Camp Bay can enter via Prima Avenue.  Much more complicated is the route for residents and guests of accommodation establishments needing to access Fiskaal and Rontree Avenues, not being able to use the Stop/Go facility on Camp Bay Drive.  They have to drive down Geneva Drive, turn left into Camps Bay Drive, and drive along the road beyond the corner of Houghton Road, theoretically part of the roadworks, turn into Rontree Avenue, and find their way to their homes.  These residents are most affected by the closure of Camps Bay Drive.

Despite Tweets sent to the City of Cape Town about its existing green signs in Camp Bay, directing traffic to Camps Camps Bay Drive sign on Geneva DriveBay and Hout Bay via Camps Bay Drive, clearly now out of date, and causing confusion to visitors to the suburb, little attempt has been made to black out these signs or to correct them. Of three signs within 100 meters of each other, only one is correct.  The green sign near the top of Geneva Drive (right) is completely wrong, sending traffic right into the (now closed) Camps Bay Drive!  The sign one sees on Camp Bay Drive as
Camps Bay Drive sign 3 coming from town Whale Cottageone enters the road from Geneva Drive has been corrected, with a red cross over the arrow (top photograph), but does not offer drivers an alternative route!  Coming down Camp Bay Drive from the city, the green sign at the intersection (left) has an arrow painted by the City to show right instead of straight, but someone at the City was confused, and painted a small red cross over this new right turn arrow on the board!  Higher up Camps Bay Drive, coming down from the city centre, but before one reaches the Geneva Drive turn-off, two persons 100 meters apart make an attempt to warn one of roadworks ahead, by waving a flag.  The character closest to Geneva Drive has brought along a drum to sit on, and lets the wind wave her flag, a classic! The flag-waving is ineffective, especially at night (and during loadshedding), as there are more than enough warning signs on the route already!

I called a number of Camps Bay restaurants last night, and all felt that there had been no impact on their business in the first week of the roadworks.  Not all were as honest as Tuscany Beach, which shared that business has dipped significantly since Easter, not only in Camps Bay but in all of Cape Town, according to their contacts at hotels and other restaurants. This is in stark contrast to previous years, when business boomed until the end of April.  The roadworks however have not made a difference to the severity of the dip.  A restaurant which could be affected in the next five months is Hussar Grill, with the Continental Deli, which are located on a section of Camps Bay Drive which will undergo renovation. Currently one can access the restaurant and Deli from the Houghton Road end of Camps Bay Drive, but over time roadworks will take place in this area.  The restaurant has a very strong local following, so the locals will keep supporting it, but walk-ins may be reduced as no traffic is passing now.

Guest houses in upper Camps Bay are affected by the roadworks, I was told, especially those that have to use the complicated route via Rontree Avenue (and Geneva Drive, Camps Bay Drive), having led to some guests having got lost already.  Most guests rent cars, and the GPS should eventually find the best route to get to their accommodation destination.  One of the owners shared that the MyCiTi Bus 107 shuttle, bringing their staff from Victoria Road to the Susan Road bus stop, is unpredictable in its frequency of driving the loop through Camps Bay, itself subject to the Stop/Go delays, and causing excessive delays of staff arriving at work, as bad as 90 minutes relative to the arrival time prior to the roadworks.  A guest house in (the non-affected section of) Camps Bay Drive fed back that traffic is far heavier now, and that their guests have commented on the street noise.  Our past guests staying with us last week know Camps Bay so well that it did not bother them to have to take the Geneva Drive route to our guest house.  Guest houses are sending their guests maps and new directions so that they can be found easily.  Disastrous is loadshedding at night, as happened last Wednesday from 18h00 – 20h30, plunging Camps Bay into darkness, which disoriented even the regular guest house guests and local residents.

Geneva Drive has never seen so much traffic, and the MyCiTi Bus stops designed to block all other traffic in the road are causing massive traffic blockages. One can sense that drivers are trying to find better routes than those recommended by the City’s yellow signs.  We can pick up far greater traffic coming down Kloof Road, past The Roundhouse, where it meets with Kloof Road near Camp Bay High School, a very dangerous intersection with traffic coming down this road very frequently cutting into traffic coming from Clifton and driving to Camp Bay, despite the stop street!  All the way down Geneva Drive drivers are turning right, to get out of the traffic jam which builds up at the bottom end in the late afternoon, causing traffic blockages in itself.  Weird is a new stop that was created last week opposite the current stop at the bottom end of Geneva Drive. At one of the residents’ meeting regarding the roadworks a three-way stop had been promised, but this has not materialised. An accident is waiting to happen at this intersection.

Everyone I spoke to recognised the benefit of safety of the widening of Camps Bay Drive (despite the minimal 0,7 meters added per lane, just more than two ruler lengths!), the planned improvement of the surface of the road, and the ‘slackening’ of the curves on the road. It was mentioned that cyclists should be banned from this road once completed, as it severely holds up traffic early in the mornings as one has been unable to overtake bicycles due to the narrow size of the road. One hopes that the City of Cape Town, and its rather arrogant Mayoral Committee member of Transport for Cape Town Brett Herron, will accept this feedback, and make the necessary adjustments!  One hopes that the City of Cape Town will not wait another 30 years for the next upgrade of Camps Bay Drive!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  Tel (021) 433-2100, Twitter:@WhaleCottage  Facebook:  click here

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