Sunday, March 06, 2005

How to make street renaming simple

According to the Sunday Times Metro, the Tshwane council wants street names in Pretoria to change. It doesn't really matter to me, since the only time I visit the Pretoria city centre is when I need to drive across the city (Pretoria doesn't have a complete outer ring road), or when I need to visit government departments (hardly ever).

I also think that Paul Kruger and his contemporaries are long gone, as are the people who they wronged, and renaming the streets of the city centre would be a waste of time.

Also, the potential for confusion is real, especially when street renamings are arbitrary. The ideal situation would be for a logical grid system to be used in renaming the streets - all north-south roads could be named with even numbers, and all east-west roads with odd numbers. Or something like that. And the number of street renamings should also be limited to those figures who are truly offensive.

But, politicians, being politicians, will probably opt for political names. Streets named after figures like DF Malan, and HF Verwoerd are the most embarrassing, and richly deserving of renaming. Unfortunately, these names are also often the names of main roads in many towns.

The potential chaos caused by a renaming can be mitigated if a nationwide mapping between old and new names is established. For example, all HF Verwoerd streets in South Africa could be renamed after say, Oliver Tambo. All DF Malan streets could be named after Beyers Naude, following the precedent set in Johannesburg. It will ease the transition between old and new names, and, if people are given a small list, they are more likely to adopt the new names quickly, and with minimal confusion. A lot of arguments against street renaming will also be blunted - old business cards, phone books and maps will still be valid - all the user would have to do is look at one list -valid for the entire country-, and they would know what the new street names are.