Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) in South Africa is currently not completely integrated into transport and spatial planning as a formal mode of transport. This is evident when observing the current condition and utilisation of South Africa?s NMT infrastructure. Pedestrians are frequently observed walking on the roads instead of on the newly built pedestrian walkways directly next to them. It is not uncommon in South Africa to find evidence of pedestrians who break through brick walls and cross highways illegally instead of using the pedestrian bridges provided. These examples demonstrate that the behaviour and needs of NMT users in South Africa are not understood and provided for by built environment planning and design practitioners (BEPDPs). The aim of this paper is to show the potential of using systems thinking and more particularly Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) as a practical and beneficial instrument that will guide BEPDPs with the ongoing learning process of understanding NMT users and their specific needs. An introduction to relevant systems thinking philosophies and methodologies are provided, followed by a discussion on the background, development and use of SSM in practice. This paper advocates the necessity of considering NMT as a mode of transport with the emphasis on the need for culture-oriented planning that can contribute to integrated innovative context sensitive mobility solutions and the promotion of green mobility. In achieving this, SSM is shown to provide useful tools for BEPDPs to seek understanding of the behaviour and needs of NMT users within the broader contexts of the mobility requirements of communities and to then provide fit-for-purpose NMT infrastructure and facilities.
Paper presented at the 35th Annual Southern African Transport Conference 4-7 July 2016 "Transport ? a catalyst for socio-economic
growth and development opportunities to improve quality of life", CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria, South Africa.