A word of caution to all consummate gardeners:
The operative word in SIDEWALK is WALK
As much as we appreciate the enthusiasm with which home owners are lending a hand to help beautify our towns by sprucing up their sidewalks, Overstrand Municipality must caution that what is commonly referred to as a "pavement" is, actually, a road reserve.
In terms of the law, that implies that that 1,5-metre verge that abuts your erf belongs to the municipality and has been reserved for use by all forms of public transport – in the case of residential areas, mostly pedestrian traffic.
Sometimes, Overstrand’s home owners get a little over enthusiastic and allow their gardens to spill over onto the sidewalk to such an extent that it is virtually impossible for any pedestrian – be they on foot or in a wheelchair – to move along without having to step into the road and, by inference, into traffic.
Clearly, as illustrated by the example here, these practices compromise the safety of those who have every right to move along our towns' sidewalks without fear of being run over.
Do also keep in mind that in most of our villages, most lanes and streets are just wide enough to accommodate two-way vehicular traffic. So, imagine encountering two vehicles travelling in opposite directions, another road user on a bicycle and a mother pushing a stroller along the stretch of road pictured here…
Should any of the motorists referred to in this scenario have to swerve to avoid a collision and, as a result, end up having to plough through this very artistic sidewalk array, all damages – including that to the subject motorist’s vehicle – will be for the home owner’s account. But that's only half of the story: What if a collision cannot be avoided and someone is injured in the process...?
The example pictured here is but one of many instances where the municipality will have to step in to ensure that home owners do not encroach sidewalks and place road users – be they motorists or pedestrians – at risk.
To begin with, in the next month or two, municipal officials will be serving warnings on those home owners who are contravening Overstrand Municipality’s Policy on the Administration of Immovable Property as well as its By-law Relating to Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Public Nuisances in as far as sidewalk encroachment is concerned. You will then be allowed a reasonable period of time to rectify the matter, where after a follow-up inspection will be conducted.
Should it be found that the warning referred to above has not been heeded and that no attempt has been made to ensure pedestrian and vehicular safety along the road verge abutting your property, you will be summoned to appear in court, with the consequence that you could face a hefty fine.
Clearly, the next question would be: How do I ensure that my sidewalk is traffic friendly? The simple answer would be to imagine that you are a parent pushing an infant in a stroller from one end of the block to the next.
If you have to duck and dive shrubs and trees along the way, find it impossible to keep that stroller moving through patches of gravel/mulch or, even worse, a whole bed of sour figs, it clearly is not.
In this regard, section 5(b) of the by-law referred to above states that “no person shall in any way obstruct the pedestrian traffic on a sidewalk by bringing or allowing to be brought thereon any object or vehicle”. Here, “object” has the widest possible meaning and includes trees, plants, shrubs, flowers, rocks, logs, loose stone, constructed flower beds, fencing and even gravel.
Furthermore, in terms of section 8 of the same by-law, unloading, storing and/or mixing building materials and/or allowing any form of waste (including garden and building waste) to accumulate in a public place (i.e. a sidewalk) without prior consent is an offence. This expressly implies that skips/containers, too, may only be placed on road reserves or in public places if the Administration in question has approved a short-term lease agreement for this purpose.
For a detailed answer on what is allowed and what is not, best to download Overstrand’s Policy on the Administration of Immovable Property from www.overstrand.gov.za, paying particular attention to paragraphs 63 to 64 “Projections, Projecting Structures and Encroachments ”. Alternatively, visit your nearest municipal office and request a copy of said policy.