Nairobi has announced car-free days The benefits could be many
Nairobi is the second most congested place in the world. Nairobi County is proposing car free Saturdays and Wednesdays in the two busiest areas of the city to reduce traffic.
plans to add more buses, a lightweight railway, and a rapid transit system. The car-free initiative has not been given a specific date, but major roads leading into the city are being upgraded in order to accommodate the new systems. Nairobi’s county government estimates that the road improvements will take six months.
These changes must be made quickly and efficiently. Due to the absence of infrastructure for public transport in the city those who cannot afford a vehicle commute by using buses, or matatus (40.6%) – private minibuses that will be phased out. Those who cannot afford to use any type of transport will walk (39.7%).
The effort will be worthwhile. The research shows that car-free days benefit cities in many different ways. There are many benefits to cities from car-free days, including traffic congestion and a reduction in wasted time. The days without cars also encourage social interaction and physical exercise. If the changes are sustained, they will improve health and wellbeing of city residents.
Going car-free has a far greater impact than just decongesting cities.
Green areas can be created in the space that was previously occupied by vehicles (such as parking lots and roads) to provide a quality public space where people can socialize, relax and congregate. Green spaces can also help reduce the Heat Island Effect, which occurs when urban areas are hotter than rural areas. This effect is known to lead to premature deaths due to heart disease.
Air pollution is another major health issue in the rapidly growing cities of developing countries. In urban areas, 90% of the emissions are from cars. Has been shown to reduce air pollution from 20 to 78% on days without vehicles.
Air pollution is a major threat to human health. Nearly 4 million premature deaths are caused by ambient air pollution. This is due to industries, homes, cars, and trucks. Exposure to air pollution from traffic has been linked to an increase in childhood asthma and premature deaths, especially for those who spend much time on highly trafficked roads, such as pedestrians, drivers, traffic police, and street vendors.
Nairobi, where traffic is responsible for a large portion of the pollution, will benefit from car-free days. The fact that particulate levels are 11.17 times greater at a curb located in Nairobi’s central business district than at a rural site during the day is a clear indication.
Noise pollution is another benefit of reducing traffic congestion. Nairobi’s noise levels are nearing the safe hearing limit. The majority of noise is generated by traffic. Noise levels that are too high can be more than just irritating or disturbing. They can also lead to heart conditions and decrease cognitive function in children. Currently, approximately 640,000 Kenyans have hearing problems.
Nairobi’s poor traffic safety record could be improved by banning cars for two consecutive days. Every day, there are about seven fatalities from road accidents. It is difficult to predict the safety impact of car-free days. Evidence from other cities indicates that it’s likely. In London, for example, the introduction of a congestion charge zone, which charged drivers who drove into central London during rush hour, resulted in a monthly reduction of 34 accidents.
Cycling could be a viable option on days without cars, thanks to the potential for increased road safety. Cycling is cheaper, healthier, and faster than motorized transport. studies have shown that walking and cycling can increase retail sales by up to 30% and that improvements in public spaces and footfall can be increased by up to 40%. The policymakers must provide designated and safe walking and cycling routes.
Since 2016, Kigali has been a no-car zone for one day each month. The day has been a huge success, and the city authorities have also organised wellness and exercise activities. As part of the activities, residents were encouraged to participate in health and eye examinations.
Rwanda has car-free days only once a week. Nairobi County has a long way to go. It’s best to introduce the measures gradually to ensure their acceptance. The phase-out of matatus is a sensitive issue, given that around 300.000 people are employed in the industry.
To increase the appeal of this new policy, the city must follow a series of events, car-free zones, pedestrianization, and larger areas.