The N2 has been dubbed the hell run as fears mount when using it
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Cape Town - Commuter, fearing for their lives when travelling on the N2, have dubbed the notorious stretch of road “the hell run”.
The national road is the scene of many crimes such as stone-throwing, robberies and occasionally murder.
This freeway is the only available route for some commuters. It is the route that connects them to the CBD but now they have to think twice before using it.
One commuter, Mark Mulder, an owner of a gun shop, said the freeway had earned its moniker. He tries to avoid it unless he has no other choice, and when that happens, he ensures that he is extra vigilant since it is like entering a combat zone.
To date he had been involved in two incidents on the N2. One of them took place about two years ago.
“I was driving from a meeting at the airport to Somerset West. I was going about 120km/h and someone stepped in front of my car and I couldn't stop and hit him. I got out of my car and tried to help him but unfortunately he died. It turned out he had just robbed someone and was trying to get away. He was wanted for various violent cases,” said Mulder.
The second incident happened a year ago when a water pipe burst in his vehicle, and he found himself stranded about 200m from the R300 bridge.
“I got out of my car and called for help from my phone. I saw spotters see me. I saw them come out the fence line to walk to me, and they surrounded me. When they were 10m away from me, I shot a few warning shots into the ground. They ran away. One guy stayed. Every time he tried to pop up I would shoot a warning shot. Within 10 minutes the police arrived. One of the guys had a rope in his hand,” said Mulder.
Commuter Dylan Marais said he lives in Plumstead but has family and friends in Somerset West.
“The N2 is so worrying that I have to cut visits short as I don't want to drive back in the dark. It impacts the time I spend with family and friends. I sometimes take the long route and go via the N1. Fifteen years ago it wasn’t a problem. It’s changed now. Very sad.”
Another commuter, Leonie Avenant, said safety was the main concern.
“Because of the taxis moving from the left yellow lane into the N2 path we have much slower traffic due to the backup. But I used the road and as a teacher, I spent hours on that road and saw people murdered, smash-and-grab incidents, flat tyres due to spikes on the road, cement blocks and people hanging around like vultures. I was petrified at night when I came back from matches that I had to umpire or coming from late meetings at school. Our family was always tense and lived in anxiety because they were so worried about us on the N2.”
The City of Cape Town said it had become a near-nightly occurrence for metro police officers to remove rubble from the N2 on their regular patrols.
“While opportunistic criminals lie in wait for motorists to stop, slow down or have their vehicles disabled, it also has other consequences. Inclement weather, such as thick mist or heavy rain, also leads to more collisions as visibility is reduced and the debris has less chance of being spotted,’ said City of Cape Town Mayco member for Safety and Security JP Smith.
The majority of incidents occur between midnight and 4am when there is less traffic on the road.
Smith said the success of an ambush was based on motorists not being able to see the obstruction and therefore day-time incidents are rare. “Despite this, motorists need to remain vigilant at all times and not count on daylight as a preventative measure.”
Whilst there are no exact locations for where rubble is placed, officers concentrate their efforts between Borchards Quarry as far as the Symphony Way bridge and predominantly inbound between the R300 and the airport approach off-ramp.
There is also no lane preference and criminals will sometimes stagger the rubble so that when you swerve from one lane to the other you collide with debris placed strategically in the lane you are swerving into.
“Do not be fooled into thinking that it’s a stone that may have fallen off a truck, or it’s there by accident. These are deliberate criminal attempts so that when vehicles break down, passengers are robbed or possibly worse,” said Smith.
During May alone, officers assisted 347 stranded motorists mainly due to mechanical breakdowns, a lack of fuel and flat tyres.
“This is not the sum total of drivers assisted as others are helped by the South African Police Service or security companies. Once again I implore drivers to ensure their vehicles are roadworthy and that they have enough fuel to get to their destination,” said Smith.
Metro police officers patrol the N2 for 22 hours a day.