What is Nairobi’s main mobility challenge? Well, we may not be able to agree on this but we can all agree that it’s a mess!

In most African countries, car ownership is considered an up-grade from mid poverty levels to a higher class. In Nairobi, they call it ‘Driving class.’ The desire to achieve this status has seen Nairobi become a mess with thousands of car owners driving themselves to work everyday. In most cases, this is attributed to the poor public transport system we have in place and the fact that there is barely any alternative for Non-Motorized Transport (NMT).

This has always been attributed to planning. Experts have stated that the current model of Nairobi City is focused on car transport as opposed to alternative non-motorized modes of transport.

Pedestrians sharing roads with motorists in Nairobi. (Photo Courtesy)

This has seen great disparity of the high rate of people relying on Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) but with less provisions, allocation and funding given to them.  What is the end result? Traffic congestion and delays, urban sprawl, air and noise pollution, climate change, community severance and high rates of traffic accidents particularly between NMT users and motorists.

Best practices dictate that transport systems should be based on environmental performance with main emphasis on prevention of air and noise pollution and enhancement of economic development with car users being charged for any social, economic and environmental impacts.

This has not been the case with many un-serviced smoking cars seen plying along major residential and work place areas where they have been great pollutants. What about consideration of travel time? Most of the land uses are segregated with  commercial or work place distances located far away from residential areas which makes commuters travel long distances, stay in traffic jams with great consumption of fuel, loss of time and economy.

Transport systems which ought to consider social inclusion for all classes through access and prioritisation of pedestrians through provisions for walkways and cycling lanes with shorter distances seems to be lacking. Any well designed transport system consists of networks which are composed of lines and nodes being the points of connection are interconnected in the same space or across jurisdictions.

Although roads may have been built in different times or periods of history, some of different types, classes or conditions, there has been a great concern of their interconnection. Transport planners and urban managers have to rethink of restoration of some of the poorly thought out designs that have often led to traffic jams with the roundabouts done away with to enhance smooth flow of traffic.

The entire transportation infrastructure system has to be managed such that if there is a traffic congestion or accident along Thika Road or there is an inefficiency, it should not extend to Kiambu Road or the rest of the transport system as it happens in Nairobi. The links and interfaces between different transport systems have to be managed such that there is no difficulty to run them as they affect interrelated links.

Planners and policy makers have no choice of formulating strategies and measures that focus on integration of land uses. They have to rethink of the transport strategies which enhance accessibility, connectivity, transit oriented development, structural form of urban growth, compact and mixed land use developments to minimise vehicle trips.

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