Employers lobby, LSK fault Nairobi car-free days order

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia (centre), Housing principal secretary Charles Mwaura (left) and Matatu Welfare Association chairman Dickson Mbugua during a press conference at Transcom House on Monday. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG 

Nairobi residents will be expected to use public service vehicles every Wednesday and Saturday of the week to access the central business district (CBD) following a new government directive to have some streets closed to traffic.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia Monday in a response to the Business Daily’s queries said there will be “no exception” to the directive meant to ease congestion in the city.

However, the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) all faulted the legality and practicability of the order, which takes effect beginning this Friday.

Cities that have successfully enforced car-free days around the world have adequate, clean and reliable public transport systems unlike Nairobi, which has chaotic, dirty and rickety matatus for public transport.

Such controls of private vehicles are ordinarily imposed on alternate days based on licence plate registrations to avoid crippling total bans.

Nairobi also lacks cycling lanes and safe pedestrian walking zones, which are key alternatives in cities with organised mass transit systems.

FKE executive director Jacqueline Mugo Monday said stakeholders in the transport sector were not consulted before issuance of the new directive.

The order, she said, is also ambiguous since a total ban is not practical.

“The idea is good. However, Nairobi does not have a workable public transport system. Workers can’t cycle in the city. We don’t have that culture,” Ms Mugo said in an interview.


The directive is the brainchild of the Nairobi Regeneration Committee appointed in March last year to solve the city’s most pressing problems. Mr Macharia is a member of the committee.

The directive is the latest in a string of missteps by the committee, which late last year caused a city-wide gridlock after banning public service vehicles from accessing the CBD.

LSK president Allen Gichuhi said the State should have consulted all stakeholders before effecting the directive, which he said is bound to be challenged in court by aggrieved parties.

He challenged Mr Macharia to produce guidelines that will be followed to effect the directive, which he termed unconstitutional.

“Under which provision in the law did he makes those pronouncements? Where was the public participation in the question?” posed Mr Gichuhi.

Should the car-free days be implemented, Nairobi will join other cities that have closed down streets to drivers.

In Denmark, half of its capital Copenhagen’s population cycles to work every day.

The city boasts of 200 miles (322km) of bicycle lanes and has the lowest percentage of car ownership in Europe.

In East Africa, Rwanda introduced a monthly car-free day in 2016. Every first Sunday, Kigali residents leave their cars at home to walk, jog or ride bicycles to the city centre.

Others use rollerskates and skate boards to get around the city, which is also the cleanest in Africa.

The car-free-day is aimed at encouraging mass sports and exercise along the affected routes, according to the city’s Mayor, Monique Mukaruliza.

Mexico City restricts about two million cars from driving into the city centre two days every work week and two Saturdays a month.

It uses a rotating system based on licence plate numbers to determine which vehicles are allowed to be on the city’s roads.

China has similar controls in its most populated cities.

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