Nairobians will now be forced to cycle or walk to the Central Business District after the government declared Wednesday and Saturday car-free days.
Transport PS Paul Maringa said there will be dedicated parking in Uhuru Park and Railways as no car will be allowed within the CBD during these two days.
Maringa said during the set days, hawkers will be allowed to sell their wares with the move set to generate Sh39.5 million daily revenue to the government from over 100,000 hawkers.
But what exactly does the government mean by car-free days?
On these days, motorists will be encouraged to give up their cars for the two days with aim of promoting mass transit, cycling and walking.
Only individuals with bicycles, police vehicles and emergency cars will be allowed into the city centre on these two days.
This means motorists will have to park outside the CBD and find their way to their offices.
However, on January 23, 2018, the Nairobi government banned boda-boda operators from ferrying people to and from the city centre.
A notice from Governor Mike Sonko’s office stated the regulation was effective immediately.
“Any operator and passenger found contravening this law will be arrested for an offence punishable by hefty fines and long jail terms as provided for in the Traffic Act, 2014.”
The notice stated that the county has not assigned parking lots in the central business district.
Car-free day is organised in various cities throughout the world in different ways, but with the common goal of reducing the number of vehicles on the streets.
The benefit to greater society is a day with less traffic congestion, a greener environment and reduced gasoline demand.
Today, the car-free day includes celebrations in 46 countries and in more than 2,000 cities.
Kenyans on Twitter have expressed disappointment after the directive was announced.
“This Wednesday and Saturday vehicle ban is like painting the pink lines on Thika Road or the matatu ban,” @Ma3Route said.
“No counter system has been put in place to transport people. Are taxis, tour vans, buses, delivery vehicles allowed in the CBD?”
@bonifacemwangi said, “This is great but @MikeSonko has a by-law not allowing bicycles in the CBD, so can we cycle to the city on car-free days?”
“Wednesday and Saturday no cars in CBD day, another unworkable action. When will @JamesMacharia_ @MikeSonko learn, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out this,” @KenyanTraffic said.
Senior Counsel Paul Muite said the measure is ill-thought and impractical.
“Who is importing these buses from South Africa? Closing two or three roads say Koinange & Moi adequate; closing entire CBD impractical, ill thought through,” he said.
@FrankGanda said, “Ok, so basically, what Transport ministry is telling Kenyans is not to carry your phones and/or any valuables to Nairobi CBD on Wednesday and Saturday.”
“Just like that, the Kenyan Ministry of Transport led by the clueless James Macharia has once again regurgitated policy without alternatives. If Wednesday and Saturday are car-free days, what alternative is in place? Nairobi county itself has a ban on bicycles,” @ItsMutai said.
@japheth_bor said, “Does Kenya lack engineers or professionals from physical planning who can draw a plan on how to decongest Nairobi CBD feeder roads?”
He added, “Banning matatus from accessing town on Wednesday and Saturday is a wrong decision that is reached out without proper public participation @MikeSonko.”
@Kelvn_Cash said, “I can’t wait to see pizza delivery guys running around the city like crazy magicians in Nairobi CBD.”
“As usual, the government doesn’t think things through. What does ‘leave cars at home’ mean when you allowed people to build malls where there should have been parking?” @wmnjoya said.
@EriponMEripon1 said, “James Macharia just from Slumberland, then you decided to announce to the public that Wednesday and Saturday are hawkers day. Is this really the best way of decongesting Nairobi CBD.”
This is not the first time the county is planning a raft of measures to end congestion in the city. Nairobi residents were forced to work when City Hall banned matatus from the CBD on December 3, last year.
Sonko was forced to eat humble pie and lift the ban following transport chaos that followed the ban.
But he said he would not allow laziness and that Nairobians must learn to walk so as to decongest the city.
Sonko said 1km is not too much for the youth to walk to the Central Business District.
“Those who walked to the CBD because of the matatu ban in the CBD, this is just a step forward… Walking is an exercise and you will still walk. Even in Rwanda, people walk,” he said.
The first attempt to decongest the city was by former Town Clerk Philip Kisia in August 2009 under the defunct Nairobi City Council.
His efforts to clear the CBD did not, however last, for he bowed to pressure from the public service operators two months later.
Kisia’s plan was to keep matatus from Thika and parts of the Central, Rift Valley, Kisii and Kilgoris out of the city centre.
Nairobi first Governor Evans Kidero, who took office in 2013, said one of his key areas of focus was on the matatu menace and de-congesting the city.
He said the order to ban matatus from the city centre was to be put in place by September that year.
However, his plan never was never actualised. He relented on his stand and matatus where left to operate within the city centre for his entire term.
NOT ONLY IN KENYA
Should the car-free days be implemented to its desired outcome, Nairobi will join other cities that have closed down streets to drivers.
Twice a month, parts of Kigali in Rwanda are turned into car-free zones where residents engage in physical activity from 7am to 10am.
People hit the streets to walk, run or ride bicycles, among other activities.
The exercise was introduced two years ago by Kigali City Council, in partnership with Rwanda Biomedical Centre, to promote a healthy lifestyle.
In Denmark, half of its capital Copenhagen’s population cycles to work every day.
The city boasts of 322km of bicycle lanes and has the lowest percentage of car ownership in Europe.
World Car Free Day is celebrated on September 22. It encourages motorists to give up their cars for a day. Organised events are held in some cities and countries.
Studies show that for short trips in cities, one can reach more quickly using a bicycle rather than using a car.
Within two years, the first days were organised in Reykjavík (Iceland), Bath (United Kingdom) and La Rochelle (France), and the informal World Car Free Days Consortium was organised in 1995 to support car-free days worldwide.
The first national campaign was inaugurated in Britain by the Environmental Transport Association in 1997, the French followed suit in 1998. In town without my car! and was established as a Europe-wide initiative by the European Commission in 2000.
In the same year, the Commission enlarged the programme to a full European Mobility Week which now is the major focus of the Commission, with the Car-Free Day part of a greater new mobility whole.
Also in 2000, car-free days went global with a World Carfree Day program launched by Carbusters, now World Carfree Network, and in the same year the Earth Car Free Day collaborative program of the Earth Day Network and the World Car Free Days collaborative.