Nairobi commuters embrace pedal power

Sensemaking / Nairobi commuters embrace pedal power

Government figures show around 2,000 people per day are choosing bike lanes over driving on congested roads in Kenya's capital.

By Futures Centre / 16 Jul 2013

Car owners in Nairobi, Kenya, are choosing to cycle rather than face the capital’s congested roads. Over 200,000 cyclists per day are using the bike lanes and leaving their cars at home, the Government claims.

Convenience is the most important factor driving the trend, says Germano Mwabu, Professor of Economics at the University of Nairobi: “There is a very big increase in the use of bicycles in Nairobi for many reasons. They are cheap, costing about 1,200 shillings ($15) for a bike. [However] the main reason is that motorists want to escape the large volumes of traffic jams in the city.”

As one commuter, Rofancio Ochieng, explains: “By bike I can get to my workplace in less time than when I use my car. It takes me just 25 minutes by bike, but by car I stay in traffic for more than two hours, making me wake up early and miss my good sleep.”

A new cycle lane network is being developed as part of Kenya’s Vision 2030. This national programme, launched in 2008, outlines plans to build a “just and cohesive society, enjoying equitable social development in a clean and secure environment”.

Improving infrastructure has been identified as a key enabler. Over $300 million has already been invested in the Thika Road Super Highway, which opened in December 2012, with over 25km of bike lanes and pedestrian paths.

The need to improve road safety is another important factor. According to the Ministry of Transport, more than half of road fatalities in Nairobi are vulnerable road users:  pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

“Originally, when the highways were being constructed and the bike lanes and pedestrian paths were built, the major considerations were avoiding accidents and minimising congestion”, says Mugo Kibati, current Director General of the Vision 2030 Secretariat. However, he is quick to recognise the environmental benefits too: “Studies show that greenhouse gas emissions have been decreasing as a result”.

Kenya’s carbon dioxide emissions were just 0.3 tonne per person in 2012, compared with an average of 8.6 tonnes across the EU. - Gitonga Njeru 

Photo credit: Cycling Out of Poverty

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