Healthy Cities! Nairobi Non Motorized Transport Policy: Popular Version Launch

This first session in partnership with the Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations and the Center for Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute in a two-part series that takes a hard look at Kenya’s Urban Transportation Infrastructure in an age of climate change. This session discussed the state of NMT infrastructure in Kenya. 

January 05, 2021

The Columbia Global Center in Nairobi partnered with the Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations and the Center for Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute in a two-part series that takes a hard look at Kenya’s Urban Transportation Infrastructure in an age of climate change. In the course of two consecutive discussions with professionals, citizen-activists, and decision-makers we ask if the urban transportation infrastructure being built in Kenya’s cities is meeting the expectations of the 21st century, where concerns about safe, healthy cities, addressing air pollution and climate change and redressing equity and injustice are pressing.

In the 20th century cities across the globe built infrastructure around the technology of automobiles. As a result new, serious public health risks arose from crashes to air pollution. This highway infrastructure in cities fragmented and harmed social fabrics, displacing, dislocating, and disadvantaging poorer residents and most often leading to severe social segregation. In some cases, such as in Nairobi, this has meant the wealthy concentrated in suburbs accessible by car and the poorest with poor public transport options live in neglected inner-city neighborhoods, sometimes called slums or in settlements adjacent to wealthy neighborhoods where they work.

Automobile-centric urban development is also emissions heavy and has also contributed to the global climate crisis. In Kenya, transportation contributes to growing country GHG emissions and is a dominant and growing source of air pollution in Kenyan cities. Increasingly, cities across the globe are turning to investment in high-quality public transport and non-motorized transport (NMT) like walking and cycling for mobility and for freight deliveries to reduce emissions from urban transport; a growing movement in Kenya is also asking for the government to shift resources into this 21st-century transportation infrastructure by supporting safe, healthier and cleaner NMT and public transport. This is also a matter of equity and justice since the vast majority of citizens walk and take public transport in the form of matatus, bodabodas, and, in Nairobi, some commuter rail as well. Environmentalists also have been asking for attention to the impacts of car-oriented development from pollution effects, the decline of needed green space, and recently in Nairobi the destruction of old trees that provide shade, air filtration, mental well-being, and beauty

Kenya’s National Climate Action Plan sets as a one-goal to reduce emissions “adoption of low carbon and efficient transport” and transport experts in the government and civil society also note the need for a reallocation of resources to public and non-motorized transport. The question then is what is being prioritized and why in Kenya’s urban transportation infrastructure investments from the Nairobi expressway to Kisumu’s NMT project? And do the investments cohere with new policies that are emerging to address the current problems in the sector including Nairobi County’s pathbreaking NMT policy? We explore these topics in two sessions:

This first session discussed the state of NMT infrastructure in Kenya. In 2006 a Sessional Paper from the Ministry of Roads and Public Works noted that “Despite its importance, appreciation for Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) is not in evidence, and there is a lack of respect and accommodation for NMT by motorists and disregard by planners. There is a distortion in the allocation of resources against transportation demands, with a large portion of resources being allocated to motorized transport as compared to NMT”. We ask has this changed? What progress is there and what more needs to happen? We will discuss achievements such as the transformation of urban street guidelines and Nairobi’s NMT Policy passed in 2017 in a process that involved wide consultation with a number of the panelists involved in shaping the policy. We also look at Kisumu’s Sustainable Mobility plan and Mombasa’s recent work on improving NMT infrastructure and ask what progress has Kenya’s cities seen in improving its NMT infrastructure? What are the next steps and how do we measure progress? Finally, we will launch the Popular Version of Nairobi County’s NMT Policy

Program Moderator:

Henry Ochieng – Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations (KARA)



Chris Kost – Staff member, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

Dr. Jacqueline Klopp – Co-director of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University.

Ms. Carly Koinange- Global Programme Lead for the UN Environment Share the Road Programme.

Constant Cap- Senior Product Manager at Code for Africa’s environmental monitoring program.

Mr. Martin Eshiwani- Director of Roads and Transport at Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS).


Webinar Highlights:

Chris Kost- We have to start designing urban streets, urban streets can carry a lot of people, they can carry more vehicles and we can do that while accommodating other transport users. (Time frame from minute 17:26- 17:42)

Chris Kost- A lot of issues in design today is that we don’t involve different types of stakeholders, designs are not made public and so people find out about the designs when the project is already built. We have to change not only the design but also how we convey the message. (Time frame from minute 19:18- 19:35)

Chris Kost- As speeds increase, the risk of the crash being fatal goes up significantly. We have to keep speeds much lower. In Kenya by law, speeds in urban areas have to be 50 kilometers per hour, but that is not the way the urban streets are designed, they are designed for much higher speeds. We need to start designing for the actual urban speeds, wherever possible reducing the speed limit to 30 kilometers per hour. (Time frame from minute 19:44- 20:20)

Chris Kost- We also need to start thinking about efficiency, the current approach of building flyovers is not going to solve the problem, we have to start dedicating places for public transport especially in form of BRT to solve the traffic problem. (Time frame from minute 20:22- 20:42)

Chris Kost- It is not enough to cut trees in the city to pave way for roads and replace them elsewhere outside the city, they have to be maintained for they benefit people who are walking or cycling in the city. (Time frame from minute 28:55- 29:08)

Chris Kost- There is a lot of opportunities for KENHA and KURA to play an active role in promoting NMT and we can work together and start designing streets that are serving the urban residents and not just cars. (Time frame from minute 30:46- 31:00)

Constant Cap- Over 40% of the citizens in the country use non-motorized means of transport as their primary mode of transport, coincidentally over 36% of accidents in the country are to pedestrians, this number excluding cyclists, cart pullers, and other NMT users. (Time frame from minute 32:23- 33:07)

Constant Cap- One of the questions we should be asking ourselves is could we have infrastructure that people living with disabilities could be able to move around independently without relying on others for help. (Time frame from minute 40:45- 40:55)

Constant Cap- Pedestrians are no longer a forgotten species and we continue to see cycling lanes being put in Nairobi, but again with some form of interference on these cycling lanes. (Time frame from minute 49:14- 49:25)

Ms. Carly Koinange – Policy is a deliberate system of principles to guide our decisions and actions to achieve rational outcomes and address specific issues or problems, ita a statement of intent about what is to be done, who is to do it, how its to be done and for who. (Time frame from minute 53:49- 54:05)

Ms. Carly Koinange – As an international community, we need to do better at thinking about the support that we give and making sure that it's not only at the policy level but also as support in developing these policies after. (Time frame from minute 55:33- 55:44)

Ms. Carly Koinange – The policy does highlight a 20% investment for walking and cycling but there needs to be a balanced investment. We have to take our hats off to Nairobi because it’s the only walking and cycling policy in the whole continent that is committed to a certain percentage figure, but if you have got 70- 79% of your population walking as a city, the 20% investment is not enough but it’s a good starting point. (Time frame from minute 58:52- 59:25)

Ms. Carly Koinange – We need trees, it can’t be that the walking, cycling and transport policy is just about getting from point A to B, by cutting down trees any time we want to build a road, or a sidewalk, this defeats the purpose of trying to build a healthy city. (Time frame from minute 59:55- 1:00:14)

Mr. Martin Eshiwani – Nairobi NMT policy was actually developed with the partnership between UNEP and Nairobi county government, but also as required by the constitution, there was a wider consultation of government ministries, NGOs, civil society, and the public for acceptance by various users. (Time frame from minute 1:04:45- 1:05:16)

Mr. Martin Eshiwani – There is a need for well designed NMT which includes safety and during this Covid period for social distancing, it’s necessary to have more spaces for walking and cycling. . (Time frame from minute 1:08:18- 1:08:35)

Mr. Martin Eshiwani – The policy we are launching, the popular version together with the ‘Nairobi Mobility Plan’ will provide a framework of developing NMT, that is networked, linked, and harmonized with other modes of transport e.g., railway stations, and bus termini. (Time frame from minute 1:09:23- 1:09:44)

Mr. Henry Ochieng- KARA alone is not able to push this, we need to have everyone involved so that we are going in the same direction, but definitely, we must be in the same boat to recognize that walkers and NMT users have the right to have good roads and facilities to enable them to move from one point to another. (Time frame from minute 1:29:11- 1:29:36)

Dr. Jacqueline Klopp – Kenya is a global leader in climate change, it has a firm national action policy, the thing that needs to come together is all the different groups, working on either road safety, public health, air pollution, climate, and transport need to come together and really push to transform the cities in Kenya and make the transport infrastructure really for the 21st Century, and that means a lot of infrastructure and investment into walking paths, public transport, cycling lanes, and non- motorized freight. (Time frame from minute 1:34:57- 1:36:00)