68th Snape Memorial Lecture by Prof Vanderschuren
The 68th Snape Memorial Lecture by Prof Vanderschuren, 11 Nov 2020
Our own Prof Marianne Vanderschuren presented the Snape Memorial Lecture 2020 on the 11th of November. The Snape Memorial Lecture (SML) was instituted in 1953 by the UCT students to honour the late Prof Snape. Presenting online, to 90 delegates, Prof Vanderschuren chose to follow the common structure by first introducing Prof Snape, then herself, after which she commenced into her actual lecture content, answering the question: Is Transport Planning and Implementation Failing 75% of our Citizens?
Prof Snape was born in Manchester in 1881, where he went to school and university. At a mere age of 19, he graduated, after which he worked as a Municipal Engineer for ten years, before coming to South Africa. As an academic, he started work at the South African College (later the University of Cape Town (1918), where he graduated an increasing number of students. Within a year of arriving in South Africa, Prof 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, Prof Snape passed.
Born in 1966, in a small mining town in the Netherlands, i.e. Kerkrade, Prof Vanderschuren grew up witnessing unemployment and the social ill accompanying this. Prof Vanderschuren graduated with a BSc Eng in Transport Engineering in 1989, in Tilburg (NL), and while she worked at TNO-Inro (the sister organisation of the CSIR), Prof Vanderschuren studied Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis and Management at the University of Delft (graduation 1999). In 2000 Prof Vanderschuren came to South Africa and started work in the Snape Building at the University of Cape Town, lecturing Transport Planning and Engineering in the Civil Engineering curriculum. While working, she undertook PhD research (graduation 2006) and she continues to lecture, while taking on management tasks in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment.
In her Lecture, Prof 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, and unpacked the specific transport planning and implementation for these groups, or the lack thereof.
Prof 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.
For people with mobility challenges the situation is not much better. Although planning documents, in South Africa, spell out the requirements, much too often we 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 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 is less supported and public transport hardly at all. This, obviously, is also apparent in practice. Prof Vanderschuren concludes that more than 75% of our citizens are not appropriately catered for in transport planning and implementation.
Prof Vanderschuren ends her lecture with a reflection on transport planning. She concludes 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 Prof 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 Prof Snape, or a sign of the times, but Prof Vanderschuren would like to build on Prof Snape’s legacy by working towards a transformed transport planning situation and University.