Car-free: Kenyans adopt wait and see attitude

The jury is still out on whether car-free days announced by the Transport ministry will work.

CS Macharia yesterday announced that Harambee Avenue, City Hall Way, Taifa road and Mama Ngina Street will be closed between 8am and 4pm on Friday, February 1 as the first stage of the pilot project.

But most of the experts and ordinary Kenyans who spoke on the subject believe that the idea, while commendable, it is ahead of its time.

Many agreed that the recent designation of Wednesday’s and Saturday’s as car-free days by Transport CS James Macharia, could help mitigate overcrowding, lower air and noise pollution and most importantly, solve one of the city’s most persistent problems – traffic jams.

But many pointed out that although the Transport ministry is trying to emulate several other world capitals, these cities have made it more attractive and convenient for residents to leave their cars home and instead walk, cycle, or use public transport.

In Norway for example, Oslo has laid out massive preparations for a plan to remove cars from the city center by 2019, marked by heavy investments in public transport and mass re-purposing of streets formerly used by vehicles into biking lanes.

Pedestrian walks

Madrid, which plans to get rid of cars in the city centre by 2020, is redesigning 24 of its busiest streets to create more space for pedestrians. 

In Hamburg, Germany, planners are re-networking the city to ease walking, while in Copenhagen, the government has built a superhighway exclusively for bikes.

In Paris planners are also increasing the biking lanes; Brussels is planning to turn more of its streets to pedestrian-only while Vancouver has designated more space to bikers and pedestrians.

New York City is making walking easier by increasing pedestrian walks.

In Kenya, however, the move to car-free days has come with minimal preparation, something that did not go unnoticed on the streets of Nairobi.

“So the alternative for all those who cannot take their cars into central Nairobi on car-free days is to get on one of the new buses, even though there are only 67 of them and they are not yet in the country," tweeted Adrian Blomfield, a Nairobi-based journalist.

Another social media user wrote, “Can we just get an original/homegrown idea that suits our immediate and long term needs?”

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CS MachariaHarambee AvenueCar-free dayKenyansNairobi