Car ban in Nairobi

Commuters walking to town. (Photo: courtesy)

I watched the craziness that became of the roads last week when matatus were banned from the city. Wah!! Then the governor drops the line “we want to keep our citizens fit” and I thought are these guys making fun of real problems that actually need to be addressed? But let’s agree that it was indeed a pilot. What do we learn?

First decongesting the city is definitely great for a lot of reasons including the economic benefits from an efficient city. But keeping a citizenry healthy and fit is not just dropping them off 20 minutes away from the city centre so that they can walk the rest of the distance. It is actually prioritizing walking. This means providing security so that I am not losing my valuables, and ensuring the routes are well lit for those who get to town before daybreak or have evening classes, or have a coffee date after work. It is also managing the transport system so that leaving my house earlier does not mean I have to pay twice as much, promoting alternative options such as carpooling because replacing PSVs with personal cars in the city beats the purpose; cycling and providing sidewalks to allow us to do this. It is also providing transit buses to cater for those who for one reason or another cannot walk. I am also thinking about going upcountry and not being able to bring a bag of potatoes because cart pullers also have a way of turning your items into stones.

At the same time, the public needs to be educated. I was reading people’s comments and most were arguing “my health is my problem”, while others pointed out that the policy makers themselves are overweight and obese.

The point is for this to be successful we need to think about comprehensive and sustainable solutions, and maybe start in small doses.