CYCLE FREE DAY IN KAMPALA: CONCEPT NOTE
Recently the UN announced a campaign dabbed “decade of action for road safety” 2011-2020. It aims at supporting road injury prevention programmes in countries and communities working to defeat this growing epidemic of road death and injury. The Car Free Day is planned to contribute to these objectives. The main outcome of the Car Free Day is orientation of policymakers and implementors towards planning for infrastructural development that includes ample provisions for cyclists and pedestrians – which gives them a sense of safety.
Cycling in Kampala city, the capital of Uganda is associated with poverty. It takes courage and determination for one to ride or walk on the streets of Kampala because priority is given to motorized users who do not respect the cyclists and pedestrians. This is further aggravated by the infrastructure that does not provide special lanes for cyclists and pedestrians. The poor who have limited transport alternatives therefore, it is assumed, take up the largest percentage of cyclists in Kampala city. Critical observation shows that people mainly cycle using the ordinary bicycle design that has a carrier on it. The major reasons why people cycle in Uganda are associated with generating income though the challenges include lack of safety, poor attitude and image towards cycling (which is associated to poverty) and traffic congestion. It is assumed therefore, that the bicycle is used mostly for transport purposes, sport but rarely for recreation!
Kampala city has recently been granted the status of an Authority. It is made up of 5 divisions – namely, Kawempe, Central, Makindye, Rubaga and Nakawa. The Council is mandated with provision of services in the city that enable residents and businesses operating in the city to function in an environment that supports development. Transport is one of them.
According to the District profile, “Although poverty in Uganda has a “rural face”, the urban poor in Kampala are much more disadvantaged”. Given that in Uganda cycling is given a “poverty” face, it will be encouraging to the urban poor to see the rich, old, young, women and girls ride and walk through the streets of Kampala.
“Richard Florida says that urban cycling belongs to the lifestyle of the creative class. This would mean that a cycle-friendly city is more attractive to today’s knowledge workers that make up today’s thriving urban economies”.
The benefits of cycling are numerous. Cycling is fun. It promotes friendship building. Cycling contributes to health support of the rider. Experts say that cycling builds body muscles, builds stamina, reduces stress and improves heart health. It is a critical mode of transport in Kampala. Given the high levels of traffic which are growing every year, it is becoming increasingly more convenient to cycle or walk in Kampala to save time than use a car especially within the Central Business District (CBD). Notably however, cycling is a source of livelihood to many urban dwellers.
It takes a nerve however, for one to confidently ride on the streets of Kampala. Simply observing how the bold do it is terrifying. They make use of any space available and maneuver around, dodging any other user on the road. Sometimes they are not so lucky.
Could this be a major reason why cycling is marginalized in the city? The African Forum for Mobility and Development (TAFMOD) in partnership with Goudappel Africa and Kampala Cycling is organizing a Car Free Day event to encourage people to cycle in the city. We are taking note of the UN campaign; the plans for the Kampala City Council Authority for an NMT pilot project and World Car Free Day initiatives into consideration.
Car Free Day is an opportunity for all Ugandans to take personal, positive and constructive measures to reduce the negative effects of carbon dioxide has on our environment such as greenhouse gases, the deteriorating quality of our air and the related health problems.
Car free day is not about eliminating the use of cars for one day but about understanding the impacts of the car has on our environment and making the switch to alternative options such as walking, cycling and public transport. This will demonstrate to the officials of Ministry of Works and Transport and Kampala City Council Authority about the integration of sustainable transport in City’s projects and programmes.
Kampala’s citizens who ride bicycles and walk are currently endangered and must have equal rights and protections both on the streets and in our city’s transport
policy but because Uganda does not have a transport policy document, TAFMOD is
asking Kampala City Council Authority, Uganda National Roads Authority, Ministry of Works and Transport to approve a citywide transport policy document that clearly states the rights, privileges and protections Kampala’s cycling population. Uganda being in the transition period of BRT and all-inclusive transportation, it is the time that non-motorized transport is recognized by all the road users and the plans for infrastructure that encourages and promotes cycling be developed for integration in the bigger transport system (BRT).