Designing streets for the 47% of people in Nairobi who get around on foot

Street pathway by Natalie Sham

A talk organised by the Friends of City Park and Aga Khan University, and given by urban planner Natalie Sham, illustrated that it is possible to plan streets in Nairobi for all users, not just cars.  Studies done by the university show that 47% of people in Nairobi walk, 32.7% use public transport and only 15.3% use cars to get about.

Suggested road cross section by Natalie Sham

Suggested road cross section by Natalie Sham

The emphasis for road infrastructure improvement should be to make streets safer for all users and suitable for people of all ages and abilities. With these statistics, people not cars should be the priority and non-motorised means of transport – walking and cycling, should be of greater concern. Reliable transit systems should trump car use.

This is a reality that transport officials around the world, from Bogota to Seoul are coming to – that integrated transport systems make for liveable cities.  They take into account different users, like older adults, school-children and the disabled. They also take into account the different uses, like mkokotenis and people on bicycle.

The current situation in Nairobi relegates walkers and people on bicycle to inferior users, whose ‘space’ is ever more under threat. Why are high-rise developments allowed to create parking on the outside of their property, and in so doing pave over the landscaping and take over pedestrian paths? Why are offices and homes allowed to extend their perimeter wall to take over the public space that should be the ‘green’ space or sidewalk? Why are an increasing number of properties allowed to completely replace trees and grass with concrete?

The study done by the university shows that on 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Parklands, the roads are a minimum of about 18 meters wide. This is very exciting as with a relatively small budget,

improvements could transform the way the whole neighborhood functions. With 18 meters, it is possible to have, using international standard measurements, on each half of the road – a treed greenbelt, which separates a pedestrian path and a bicycle path, and then a cart lane alongside the car lane.

This would make for a complete street, one that is safe and enjoyable; less people would feel the need to drive, reducing traffic and pollution; greenbelts would make the neighbourhood much more pleasant and healthy and even the local economy would benefit as people get about more easily and confidently.

The Friends of City Park who have for many years been working to save City Park would like to see City Park develop in a way that promotes the nature and people that neighbour the park.

By Seeta Shah and Catherine Ngarachu


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