Pedestrian safety street theatre in De Doorns

3 May 2022
Department of Transport and Public Works

De Doorns, situated about 140 kilometres from Cape Town on the N1, is an extremely hazardous location for pedestrians. As winter approaches, the danger will increase. The Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW) conducted a street theatre pedestrian safety campaign featuring local residents from 25 April to 2 May 2022. An outside broadcast by local community radio station Valley FM on 26 April helped to increase the campaign’s impact.

At least two primary school children get knocked down by cars in the area every month, according to statistics provided by local school principals. Fortunately, no deaths of children have been reported over the last few months.

DTPW built a pedestrian bridge and a subway to provide safe crossings over the N1, but people tend to use the shortest route, not necessarily the safest route. Global research applied to South Africa shows that township children walk between 1.6km and 2km a day, on average.

The DTPW Directorate Road Safety Management and Safely Home’s pedestrian safety awareness programme took the form of a series of street theatre performances to educate residents, particularly those who live in Stofland, how dangerous it can be to cross the N1. Other role players were Provincial Traffic Services, Breedevallei Municipality Traffic, the Western Cape Education Department, and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport.

The performances took place during the morning peak period when residents and learners went to work and to school, and were repeated in the afternoon when people were returning home. A professional group of script writers and producers worked with a cast of local community members to perform the street theatre.  

Principal Road Safety Officer and project leader Christal Nyman said the project’s developmental communication approach aimed to avoid top-down arrangements so that the community was part of the project from the start. Job creation, albeit it for a short time, was another developmental objective of the project.

“We need the message of safe walking to not just resonate during the time of the performances, but right through the winter-period and well into the summer. The actors recruited from community did the performances and then acted as road safety ambassadors after the performances ended”, she added.  

“Research shows a high percentage of Valley FM’s listenership is from the De Doorns area. Valley FM ensured that we reached a target audience much wider than people who were in De Doorns during the performances”. She said a short post-implementation survey would determine whether residents had received and understood the message.