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Harmonizing Initiatives: Nairobi, Kenya works towards developing an NMT Policy

About

Bio: Constant Cap has a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Nairobi, Kenya. He holds an undergraduate degree from the same university. He writes about urban planning issues online and in local dailies. Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya he passionate about the planning issues facing African Cities. He has a deep interest in sustainable transportation, urban resilience and new urbanism. He is also a Graduate Member of the Town and County Planners Association of Kenya. He has previously worked at the Strathmore University Advancement Office. He currently works as the Executive Director of Kilimani Project Foundation.

bicycle road sign

The Nairobi County Government in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP) and the Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (KARA) have set up a team to develop a Non Motorized Transport Policy for the County. Led by Engineer Tom Opiyo, the team of experts will work towards developing a policy and presenting it to Governor Evans Kidero by the end of February 2015.

The policy will aim at harmonizing all previous initiatives that have been made by different agencies, developing specifications and standards, accommodating social and environmental standards, improving capacity of the county to develop facilities and thus improving quality of life.

The county government has recently made an effort towards providing footpaths and walkways, though a lot is left to be desired. Very few of them are suitable for persons with disability or children and in many cases, they are seen as an ‘extra addition’ during road construction. The few bicycle routes in existence are not networked.

The pillars of the policy as stated by Liana Vetch from UNEP include Road Safety, Accessibility (linking to public transport) and Environment (local and global greenhouse gas emissions). The main two existing policies that will be considered are the Nairobi Agreement (East Africa better air quality Agreement) and the action plan from the Africa Sustainable Transport Forum.

As per the targets set by the County government, the policy report should be out by the end of February 2015. This gives about two months for data collection, review of existing policies and regulations, organization of platforms and making improvements based on feedback.

Professor Winnie Mitullah from The University of Nairobi, states that NMT ought to bedirect, attractive and safe. At the moment, she pointed out; there is no institutionalization of NMT.

Among her preliminary research findings are the reality of the high cost of infrastructure and a recent change to  integrated planning modes from purely motorized. She notes that NMT should not only be thought of ‘with a road’ but also ought to be considered on its own e.g. pedestrian only streets or cyclist only streets.

Currently all urban roads are considering NMT but are limited by financing, lack of space, retrofitting, and the battle between the ideal and the reality (what suits a place on paper and what can actually be done on the ground).

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Most of the previous urban development has been based on what one may call an elitist approach, thus putting NMT on the sideline and taking motorists as the main players. Critical towards avoiding this is to consider demand as a key factor, making pedestrian counts, NMT Audits, prioritization and budgeting. This brings about the need for integrated planning  e.g. if people will trade on the bridge build the bridge to accommodate traders other than spend money enforcing rules and regulations.

Engineer Opiyo informed stakeholders that the key aspects of NMT being carts, trailers, cyclists and walking, (though we do not like talking about carts). Among the characteristics of NMT include exposure to danger, slower in non-congested streets, faster in congested streets, use of human power, less pollutant and cheaper in short trips.

He outlined the key areas that will be considered in the policy including the Problem statement, Vision, Mission and Strategic Objectives.

Important considerations in developing the policy will be multimodal transport, design based on ‘principles of universal design,’ NMT facilities meeting user requirements and development of streets based on road network hierarchy. Recognition of street trading and street design elements are also leading considerations.

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One of the more recent successful cases of NMT was in Chennai, India. A City that is known for its high usage of vehicular transport, they set up an NMT policy in 2012 where they also allocated 60% of their transportation budget to NMT.  The prioritization of people over cars has seen safer streets and promotion of walking and cycling.c

The City of Bogota, Colombia is also well known for its success in creating pedestrian paths and a network of bicycle lanes that traverse the city. These have been helpful especially in the poorer areas where residents have always used NMT as their mode of travel. It has also created opportunities for placemaking and the creation of recreational public spaces.

If you are interested in making contributions towards the policy, please get in touch with the Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations or naipolitans@gmail.com

Images by Constant Cap. Data linked to sources, Originally posted by Naipolitans

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