Rwanda Trying Greener City With Designating More Car-Free Zones

By  |  March 25, 2019

Due to rapidly growing number of cars in city centres in most countries, congestion has become a daily phenomenon city dwellers have had to grapple with. The congestion has caused a lot of air and noise pollution and a significant deterioration in living conditions.

European cities have embraced the concept of car-free zones after close to a century of living with cars. Other cities across the world are slowly realising that automobiles are not the most convenient mode of transport in urban centers. A number of these American cities have even opted to incorporate pedestrian-oriented streets into their central business districts.

Now Rwanda is considering to join the growing number of cities that are getting rid of cars in the central business district, an idea which was instigated earlier in 2015 when a pedestrian-only street was introduced in the capital’s Commercial Business District.

Kigali city officials are now analysing a feasibility studies and reports indicate that the plan may be adopted and introduced on the debut of the revised Kigali City Master Plan in June 2019.

While it looks like a good idea, some people oppose the idea basing their claims on the fact that the first and only car-free zone has not been fully utilised despite it tampering with businesses operating on the street. A majority contend that the concept failed to put in to consideration existing businesses that may be negatively affected adding that sufficient public consultation has not been carried out. They further assert that there is a lack of properly laid-out strategy on installations on the zone.

“For instance, a walk on the car-free zone towards Ecole Belge reveals that a street that was pre-2015 busy now has significantly less foot traffic causing a number of businesses to change address, ” New Times Rwanda reports.

Fred Mugisha, Director of Kigali Urban Planning and Construction One Stop Centre, City of Kigali reveals that they are in the final stage of exploring other potential car-free zones within the city.

“We mapped out streets and are looking at improvements that can be made to make it friendlier for the aspect. We have done studies on pedestrianizing streets,” he said.

“We are finalising studies; we are now mobilising funds to ensure that it can be pedestrianised without hampering business. We are mapping out dedicated streets. It will not be a closure of the street; it remains open for cycling and other non-motorised uses. All this will be done without affecting business activities,” he added.

Mugisha said that the plans are in line with having a greener city that is full of life. “Within the CBD we want to have dedicated streets for pedestrians if we are to achieve the green goals. We need to prioritise green trips.”

Business owners are calling on the government to put into consideration their businesses as they plan to dedicate more car-freed zones. City dwellers are requesting the government to lias with the private sector to set up ‘containers’ and tents to make it possible for them to access foodstuffs on streets that will be dedicated as car-free zones.

The clean-up effort is in part a response to the rapid growth in the capital whose population has doubled since 1996.

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