Safety

Our little corner of Africa is a long way from anywhere important, which can sometimes be a bit of an inconvenience. It’s about 8 hours driving or 2 hours flying to even get out of the country. And then you’re going to find yourself in Namibia, which is lovely, but which is also rather a long way from anywhere important.

However, this geographical solitude seems to have paid some dividends when it comes to avoid nuclear holocaust:

Yep. Unless your Spanish and/or Portuguese is up to scratch, or you really, really like snow, it looks like Cape Town (ok, and a bit of Namibia too) is the place to be once Kim Jong-Un starts throwing his metaphorical toys out of his metaphorical cot.

Some thoughts on Uber in Cape Town

Hello guys. Hello gals.

I have a problem with Uber in the Mother City.

Let me first set the scene. Some background, if you will.
I think Uber is a great idea. In a country where we still have yet to cross the hugely important barrier of drinking and driving becoming socially unacceptable, any alternative means of getting oneself home after a night out is not only welcome, it’s vitally important.

And Uber is easy to use. It’s there when you need it, you don’t need to have cash on you, you press a couple of buttons and you’re sorted for your journey. When it first arrived, it felt like the future. In some ways, it still does.

There have been problems. Implementing a business model which was devised for the heady, First World streets of San Francisco and New York into South Africa hasn’t always been straightforward. But I’ve spoken to a huge number of drivers who have had their lives changed for the better by working for Uber here in Cape Town. The flexibility around working hours, the opportunity of income that they wouldn’t otherwise have had and the ease of becoming a driver, with no specific skills or education required, are all things that most cite as benefits of working in this system. And of course, it’s hard work and everyone along the line needs to take their cut, but no driver has ever told me that he wished he didn’t work (or have to work) for Uber. The overriding sentiment is positive.

But I’ve noticed a concerning change in the standard of my Uber drivers recently. More and more often, I’m getting drivers that are simply not very good at driving, that are new to the area and that don’t inspire any confidence in getting you to the end of your journey safely. And that’s not good.

Take last night. Dinner out in Woodstock, with an early start. Uber booked, arrived on time, but then missed the turn into our driveway because he was looking at his phone instead of looking at us frantically waving at him, and then almost took out two other vehicles in trying to pull over to get to us.

Despite us helping with directions, the journey was uncomfortable. Too much time staring at the phone next to the handbrake, excessive acceleration followed by excessive braking – like a learner driver – and the moment where he thought that he’d taken a wrong turn and decided that trying to stop in the fast lane of Hospital Bend was a good thing to do while he sorted things out. I thought we were going to die.  He claimed that he’d never driven on Hospital Bend – weird for a driver in Cape Town, but ok – but given the fact that it’s quite clearly a five-lane-each-way highway with traffic travelling at 80kph, there’s really no excuse for even considering stopping there, especially with two passengers frantically telling you to please keep driving before the rest of the N2 ended up right up our arses.

I (briefly) found religion. And it clearly paid off, because we got to the restaurant physically unscarthed, but mentally scarred.

But this scenario is becoming more and more common. I’m seeing more and more inexperienced drivers – not just inexperienced in working for Uber, or in driving in Cape Town – but inexperienced in actually driving.

As if further proof was required, we didn’t even get into our second Uber last night, because he crashed into a moped on the 60 second journey to pick us up from the restaurant. According to witnesses, it wasn’t the fault of the moped. Just saying.

Our replacement driver was a local guy, who claimed to know the roads, but took us via some bizarre route home against the wishes of the GPS “because it avoided the traffic lights on the M3”. The fact that we live a couple of hundred metres off the M3, we ended up going through 6 sets of robots instead of 3 and we got stuck at a level crossing we should never have been anywhere near seemed to escape him. He was a nice guy, he was a confident driver, but he ripped us off by (deliberately) taking a illogical longer route.

I didn’t think we were going to crash at any moment though.
Which was nice.

So I was unimpressed with all three of our drivers last night. The longer route thing pisses me off (and I told him so), but it’s the continuing theme of limited driving ability which I find far more concerning. I’ve seen people saying that this is a purely Cape Town-based problem with Uber, but I can’t comment, having limited experience of using the service in other SA cities.

Has this been your experience too? And with seemingly so many more “learner” drivers around, how do you avoid getting one on your next Uber trip? I’d love to know.

Down one

Latest news from the City of Cape Town water dashboard:

Here are a few takeaways from  this week’s numbers and the information provided therein.

We are still using too much water. And by “we”, I mean people who aren’t me or my family. But even so, even with those people who aren’t me and my family, Cape Town has cut its water use by almost 50% when compared with similar periods a few years back.
Can “we” do better? Well, “we” should be able to, but interestingly, “we” have been stuck at this sort of level for a while now. Could this be some sort of impasse, and if so, why is it happening and what can the City do to get past it? There are already plenty of measures in place, but are they actually having enough effect?

582 million litres x 7 days = 4,060 million litres, but actual volume stored in the dams dropped by 8,739 million litres. That discrepancy is mainly due to evaporation because of the hot weather and strong winds we’ve seen this week over the Winelands area. So, in the last 7 days, we’ve lost an additional 8 days at 582 million litres back up to the sky. And let’s face it – it’s going to be hot and windy a lot more over the summer.

The good news is that even with this continuing overuse and huge evaporation, the dam levels “only” dropped by 1%. Simple maths suggests that with 26% of usable water still available, and using/losing 1% a week, we can last another 26 weeks. I’ve been doing some (more) rudimentary calculations and I reckon that takes us to the middle of May. We might just make it. Or not. I actually have no idea.

Because historically, water usage goes up at this time of year into summer.
However, there is some good evidence that water restrictions will curb this increase:

Taking 2014/15 as an example of unrestricted use, and comparing it with last summer (when restrictions were in force), we can see that there has been a reduction of maybe 400 million litres a day. And yes, production (blue line) is still above where we need it to be (pink line), but that graph tells a good story, and with more draconian measures in place this year, will hopefully continue to do so. Addition of temporary small scale desalination plants and tapping into local aquifers will mitigate supply issues a little too.

It rained this morning, which ruined the kids’ sports day, but at least I got another 100 litres or so from my sausages. And I’m only concentrating on that latter fact, because we’re really not in any position to complain about any negative effects of precipitation in Cape Town right now.

Chin up. We might just survive this yet. Keep saving. Every little helps.

David’s Water Crisis Facts

Mythbusting. It’s a thing. Two middle-aged gentlemen in San Francisco famously made a living out of it. So step forward then David W. Olivier, who – right from the get go – is anxious for us to know that he:

does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

That article being this one, in which he rejects our reality and substitutes his own:

David has gone out on a bit of a limb here by using facts and relevant information to make his case. An approach that the Facebook hordes are unlikely to recognise. And if you read it through rather cynical eyes, it does appear as a bit of a City of Cape Town puff piece, but then you realise that maybe, just maybe, they have also been using facts and relevant information when informing us about the water crisis.

Wow.

David hits us with truth bombs about the much alleged lack of preparedness:

Climate trends over the past 40 years gave no indication of the drought’s timing, intensity or duration. In fact, dams were overflowing in winter 2014. The weather forecasts gave no indication that the 2015 drought would continue over another year. A study by the University of Cape Town came out a few weeks ago, saying that the odds of the drought carrying over again into 2017 were less than one in one thousand.

He then goes in for a combination attack detailing the myths of lack of enforcement and water being lost to leaks, before a killer blow on the “why didn’t we build a big desalination plant?” debate:

A desalination plant large enough to accommodate Cape Town’s needs (450 megalitres per day) would cost 15 billion rand to build and then millions more to maintain.
There is a chance that by the time such a plant is built, the drought would be over. The city would be left with a very expensive white elephant.

And then, after a page or two of cold, hard realities, a single paragraph of reasoned opinion.

Blame shifting, fault finding and panic are usual reactions to water crises all over the world. Some anxiety is good, as it motivates water saving, but blame shifting actually pushes responsibility away, and causes water wastage. The best attitude Cape Town’s people can adopt is for every person to do their best, together. The world is watching, let’s set them an example to follow.

How dare you, David? How very dare you?

Of course, as a Cape Town resident, you might feel that sharing this sort of thing might move some of the responsibility away from the city and onto your shoulders. And, if I may be so bold, that’s probably one very good reason that these myths have conveniently gone unchallenged and been perpetuated on social media, around braais, and on social media around braais.

Why not lead the way by breaking the cycle and when one of these Seven Deadly Myths [Really? – Ed.] gets quoted in your presence, give them a friendly nudge or punch in the face and tell them the truth?

It’s ever so liberating.

Compare and contrast

Part 1.

I took this photograph of a rather verdant scene featuring Wynberg Hill, Newlands Forest and Table Mountain on the 21st October 2017 at 10:21:49.

Because of the precise GPS settings on the Mavic Pro, I know exactly where I took it from as well. Technology, ne?

My plan is to take another photo (or maybe more than one) on other 21sts  (or as close as weather, work and will allows) with a view to comparing just how dry and yellow/brown Cape Town gets over summer with absolutely no water to spare for the plants.

This image was taken in a week when the dam levels rose by 1.1% (to 38.5%) after some decent rain, so it marks a good time to get a green benchmark and also, in many people’s minds, the likely the last increase of the year.

Look out for part two at some other stage.