African cities will need to prioritise people and not cars if they are to be sustainable in future.
This was said during a recent Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK) convention that discussed the outlook of the built environment amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“Expanding roads infrastructure is not a solution to traffic snarl-ups because we have seen some cities in the world that have done so, including building expressways like Nairobi is doing but still the traffic was a challenge,” said Peninah Ndegwa, transport planning associate at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.
“We need to deliberately put people at the centre by redesigning our roads by reducing car lanes and add more lanes to accommodate non-motorised transport.”
Ms Ndegwa spoke during a virtual panel discussion on the future of African cities with a focus on Johannesburg, Nairobi and Lagos.
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“In Nairobi for instance, 41 per cent of people walk to work, another 41 per cent use public transport while 31 per cent either walk at the beginning or end of their journey. Transport infrastructures currently cater for only 13 per cent with cars, who are few,” she said.
UN-Habitat Senior Programme Manager Herman Jean Pienaar said a people-centred approach in the planning of cities will be key to creating places that enable people to go to work in their neighbourhoods without driving.
“This will also be sustainable development of cities, thus making them resilient to climate change and future pandemics. Doing this will also help reduce carbon emissions and improve quality of life,” he said.
Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, who opened the convention, said Covid-19 has caused a paradigm shift in how countries conduct business.
“The reality we are facing in the wake of Covid-19 is that our facilities were not prepared for the pandemic. In future, we may have to construct our hospitals with pandemics in mind, and architects will play a crucial role in this,” he said.
“AAK will therefore play a key role in ensuring that new buildings and existing buildings are modified or constructed to accommodate the new reality brought about by Covid-19.”