Kenya's capital, Nairobi, is the second most congested city in Africa. To reduce congestion, Nairobi County has proposed car-free Wednesdays and Saturdays in two of the busiest parts of the city.
Reduction of automobile emissions to limit global warming is an obligation to take for each and every nation in the African continent and globally too. Kenya is taking it now through a new planned mobility policy that is to see that motorists are encouraged to give up their vehicles during dedicated days (Every Wednesdays and Saturdays).
Frence Résumé: Nairobi Central Business District va voir ses habitants marcher ou faire du vélo dans le quartier central des affaires. Cela fait suite à une annonce antérieure avec des plans pour déclarer les jours sans voiture des mercredis et samedis. Le plan devrait être déployé en juin 2018, en collaboration avec l'équipe nationale de régénération.
In the policy, Nairobi Central Business District will see its dwellers either walk or ride bikes into the Central Business District. This follows a previous announcement with plans to declare Wednesdays and Saturdays Car-Free days. The plan is set to be rolled out in June, 2018, in conjunction with the National Regeneration team.
Kenya car free days progress as of July, 2018
Currently a specific date for the start of car free days initiative has not been established but the main routes leading to the city are being modernized to facilitate the new systems. With private cars off the road, the plan is to include more buses, a light railway and a rapid bus transit system. According to the Nairobi county government, the changes in the streets of the capital would take at most six months, but will be done quickly and efficiently.
What are car-free days?
Organized car-free days are held in various cities across the world where motorists are encouraged to give up their vehicles during dedicated days and has been institutionalized in some areas making it compulsory.
Research shows that cities benefit from car-free days in many ways. These include traffic decongestion & reduction in time wasted, fewer car crashes & less noise, and air pollution. Car free days also increase social interaction and physical activity. Overall the change will, if sustained, improve the health and well-being of the city’s residents.
Why Nairobi Car-Free Days?
A 2007 report by the Ministry of Roads and Public Works indicated that although only 15.3% of commuters in Nairobi use private cars, they account for 36% of vehicles in the capital city roads compared to 29% of commuters using Matatus who account for only 27% of vehicles on the roads.
Where else are car-free-days in Africa?
In Kigali, Rwanda for instance, it was introduced in mid-2016 and takes place on the first Sunday of every month. Without cars or buses, residents are encouraged to walk or ride bicycles. There is also a full time car-free zone in the city. Read Here: Kigali: Turning into a pedestrian-friendly city.
What do Nairobi citizens have to say about the coming car-free days?
Joseph Wambugu a barbershop owner in Nairobi Central Business District believes the move would inconvenience residents. He said: “Personally I have to drop my kids who are in different schools every morning so leaving my car home two days in a week is not possible.”
Another taxi driver Duncan Mwaura along Standard Street dismissed the move saying it’s not sustainable and that it’s not the best way to decongest the city. He said “The issue of congestion in Nairobi is not about cars it’s about the system, the County should make sure that traffic flows and also get rid of PSVs from the Central Business District.”
According to Mr Mohammed Dagane, Nairobi Transport, Roads and Infrastructure County Executive, he believes the move is also aimed at coaching the culture of using public transport in Nairobi. He said: “We need to shift from the idea using our own vehicles coming to town every day, because you find more than three million of cars coming to the Central Business District and each one of them is not carrying more than one passenger.”
The possible Impact to expect from car free days in African city centers such as Nairobi and Kigali.
The impact of car-free days go well beyond decongesting the city. Space that is freed up from vehicles, like roads and parking lots, could be used to create green areas (quality public spaces where people can congregate, socialize and relax).
Another big health concern in developing countries' fast-growing cities is air pollution. Car emissions account for 90% in urban areas. Car-free days are known to reduce certain types of air pollution by 20 to 78%. Air pollution does a huge amount of damage to people's health. Worldwide, nearly four million people die prematurely due to ambient air pollution, caused by industries, households, cars and trucks. Exposure to traffic related air pollution has been directly linked to increases in cases of childhood asthma and early deaths. This is particularly the case for those who spend a lot of time along highly trafficked roads (pedestrians, motorists, traffic police, and street vendors). Car-free days are expected to reduce pollution in Nairobi where an exceptionally large amount comes from traffic. This is clear from the fact that the levels of particulate matter are 11.17 times higher on a curb in the central business district during the day than a rural background site.
Another benefit in reducing congestion is the reduction of noise pollution. Noise levels in Nairobi are approaching the healthy hearing limit. Most of the noise stems from traffic. High levels of noise aren't just annoying or disturbing. They can also cause heart conditions and reduce cognitive functioning in children. As of now, about 640,000 Kenyans suffer from hearing problems.
Banning cars for two days could also improve Nairobi's bad traffic safety record. There are, on average, about 7 deaths from the 35 road crashes every day in Nairobi. The safety effect of car free days is hard to predict. But evidence from other cities suggests improved safety is a likely outcome. Take a scenario here….. In London for example, introducing congestion charge zone, which charged people travelling by car to the central city during peak hours, led to a reduction of 34 accidents every month.
The potential of increased safety on the roads could also make cycling a possibility on car-free days since it is more affordable and healthier than motorized transport yet faster than walking. An added benefit is that studies show that cycling and walking can increase retail sales by up to 30% and that well-planned improvements to public spaces can boost footfall and trading by up to 40%. But policymakers will need to provide good and well designated walking and cycling paths (lanes).
As African Mobilities Observatory - AMO, we believe this is the right time for every city and major town in Africa to have car free days sessions in order to impact on the uncontrollable global warming issues resulting from 24/7 automobile emissions.
What do you have to say on the issue of global warming and its effects to human and nature?
By Joseph Semuju
Community Manager - AMO
African Mobilities Observatory - AMO, MICHELIN.
Message was edited by: Joseph Semuju