Nairobi, Kenya: Neglect of NMT makes it less safe, less convenient and less attractive.

Cities are growing at alarming rates and consequently facing a variety of challenges such as traffic congestion, pollution,  pedestrian deaths and an increasing urban populace.

Cities in South America have tried to solve their transport challenges through innovative methods like Bus Rapid Transit and Aerial Cable Transportation while African Cities are expanding roads and attempting similar mass transit systems.

Planning for Non-Motorized Transit (NMT) like Walking, Bicycling and hand carts, which play a vital role in the movement of goods and people, has been perennially ignored in Africa. Many governments appear to have an ideological preference for motorized over NMT because they regard it as technologically advanced.  This has been evident with attempts to reduce transport congestion that focused more on road construction and expansion which is mainly done through loans and grants. The political attitude toward pedestrians is often neglectful or curiously hostile and there has been little focus on the development of infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists.

The importance of NMT cannot be ignored. Around 50 percent of all trips in major African cities are entirely on foot, and trips undertaken primarily by public transport also involve significant walking distances. NMT is even more critical as cities embark on reducing the effects of climate change by adopting more ecologically friendly modes of transportation.

Development and promotion of NMT facilities can serve several functions. Besides ensuring delivery of rights to the majority urban poor, it also helps at reducing traffic congestion.

This neglect of NMT users has led to it appearing to be less safe, less convenient, and less attractive, making the forecast decline of NMT a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For most growing urban areas, the trend towards integrating NMTs has taken route via change in infrastructure models, policy creation and development.

Generally there are three ways in which NMT can co-exist with motorized transport:

  • Full integration gives no exclusive right or special protection for bicyclists or pedestrians using a mixed road and relies on driving behavior to protect the more vulnerable categories.
  • Partial segregation reserves a strip on the carriageway for bicyclists or pedestrians, but does not protect it physically.
  •  Full segregation gives exclusive rights to pedestrians or cyclists and makes it physically difficult for motorized traffic to trespass on that right.

Full segregation tends to be important where NMT volumes are high, for instance,  pedestrian only streets, and ensures the safety of the users.

NMT development and use has several benefits including improved access, social inclusion, safety, reduced energy consumption and pollution and increased usage of facilities by citizens.

As the County Government of Nairobi develops its NMT Policy, it needs to first take into consideration the main users of NMT and analyze their main corridors/routes vis-a-vis the current facilities. This would target the 50% who currently walk or cycle to their workplace, a majority of  these being in the working class.

Initially this would require looking into how adequate NMT facilities can be developed within and around the informal settlements so as to ensure safe, effective and efficient movement of persons within the settlements.

Involvement of the citizens through campaigns, training and education  is also critical so as to ensure maximum benefit. All stakeholders including engineers, county askaris, police, school teachers, contractors and other relevant groups should be involved in this exercise.  The training ought also to cover safety, law enforcement and encouragement programmes.

Consideration of vulnerable groups like Persons with Disabilities, Women and Children is critical in the development of urban infrastructure. Movement of children from school to their areas of residence, security of women when they are using NMT facilities as well as safety of children on the road. The famous quote that ‘a cycling lane that cannot be used safely by an 8-year old is not a cycling lane at all’ falls into place here.  A good goal in the development of NMT for a city would be where every child can walk to school without fear of vehicular interference and every PWD can conveniently move from one place to another.

What else do you think African Cities can do towards Developing NMT facilities? With the County Government depending heavily on parking fees as a source of income, where is the place for NMT?

Advertisements

Nairobi, Kenya aims at Regularizing Unauthorized Structures

A Collapsed floor of a building in Nairobi, Kenya

The collapse of a residential building on the 17th of December, 2014 in Makongeni and another one in Huruma on the night of the 4th of January 2015  has led to the Nairobi City County Government calling for an emergency recess to analyze and seek approval of the Nairobi City County Regularization of Developments Bill.

The Nairobi County Regularization Bill aims at bringing unauthorized developments under the umbrella of planning framework and providing basic facilities and infrastructure to the residents. This excludes unauthorized developments made on public land from regularization but includes regularizing unauthorized developments made up to the commencement (of the act), in conservation areas and those that have more than the required number of floors. It also intends to appoint an advisory committee for the purpose of law.

The Act proposes regularization of  unauthorized constructions put up on county or private land except those on existing or proposed roads, on land set aside for widening of railway lines, communications or other civic facilities or public utilities, forest cover, river banks, public amenities and land belonging to another person among others mentioned in Section 7 of the same.

Developments will have up to twelve months from the Act’s commencement  to apply for and obtain regularization, with the county government having the power to extend this period by not more six months. This will require owners of unauthorized structures to obtain a certificate of regularization from the county government.  During the regularization period, some amnesty will be given to projects that commenced before the commencement of the Act but conform to safety standards and directions.

There has been an increase in construction in Nairobi, Kenya

The Act proposes regularization fees and the demolition of all buildings not regularized upon the expiry of the regularization period.

Owners making changes to developments will assume all liability for any injury, damage or loss. Likewise it does not take the legal responsibility away from the professionals.

The Act also proposes the setting up of a regularization committee which includes a planner, surveyor, environmentalist, engineer, finance expert, architect, legal officer and the chief officers in charge of planning and lands from the county government. These shall be in charge of advisory, human resource and stakeholder mobilization tasks as well as overseeing  the regularization exercise.

The executive committee member will be in charge of ensuring full operationalization of the Act and establishing the necessary administrative arrangements for the same.

A Construction Site in Nairobi

According to Nairobi Planning Innovations, citizens can make comments to the office of the Nairobi County Assembly Clerk Via email clerk@nrbcountyassembly.go.ke and tweets to @NrdCityAssembly.

What do you think about the process of regularizing unauthorized structures? How can planning measures be enforced after the regularization process or are these part of the signs of a city that is growing as a rate that is too fast for the planning authorities?

Images by Constant Cap.Data Linked to Sources