African Cities are Walking Cities, but are they Walkable?

From Walkonomics the real deal in African and other developing cities will be to accomplish the transition from walking because people have to, to walking because its the best way to get around, while in most South african cities its not – public transport is not safe, cheap or reliable hence the drive for private cars and use of mini-bus taxis. Does any young city dweller where not want his own car in order to be cool? 

If you’ve ever been in an East African city during rush hour, then you’ll know that African cities are walking cities.  In the rapidly urbanising capitals of Africa, walking is by far and away the most popular form of transport.  For instance over 60% of trips in Addis Ababa are made on foot, while just 9% of trips are made in a car and in Nairobi over 45% of people walk.  These are the kind of walking statistics that developed cities can only dream of: London struggles to get 20% of people to walk and in New York its between 10-20%.

Can a growing city keep people walking?

As a result, the current CO2 emissions of these cities are extremely low, with the vast majority of people either walking or using ‘ad-hoc’ public transport such as the small blue and white minibuses of Addis Ababa.  However most Urban Africans aren’t walking out of choice, but simply because they can’t afford to travel in any other way.  The real challenge facing urban governments in Africa is to maintain these high levels of walking as their cities grow at an incredible rate and Urban Africans start to earn enough to be able to afford to travel differently.

So walking is popular in Africa, but this isn’t because urban African streets are walking-friendly.  In fact quite the opposite: 63% of streets in Addis Ababa lack any pavements or sidewalks and crossings are rare.  Africans walk despite the un-walkable urban environment, not because of it.  Walking isn’t only difficult, its also very dangerous with 67% of road accidents involving pedestrians in Ethiopia’s capital.  Sadly this is the case in many developing countries, where road accidents are a growing epidemic and are expected to be the third biggest killer by 2020.

Walkable urban development

Faced with these huge challenges and opportunities the United Nations have recently pumped over $3 million into a project to kick-start sustainable transport in three African capital cities.  ’Sustainable transport in East African Cities‘ will support and fund improvements to walkability, bikeability and public transport in Nairobi, Addis Ababa and Kampala.  The project is built around creating Bus Rapid Transit systems (BRT) in each city, similar to schemes in Johannesburg andBogata.  BRT are low cost and efficient bus systems with dedicated ‘busways’ and high quality enclosed stations.  They provide the usability and capacity of other Mass Rapid Transit (like trams or subways) but at a fraction of the cost, making BRT an ideal option for developing cities.

As well as establishing BRT systems, the project will create more walkable and bikeable streets in each city, which will form a sustainable transport network. These improvements will include building more sidewalks, signalised crossing and improving road safety. It is hoped that by creating a holistic transport system now, each city can provide a sustainable alternative to the car-dependent development that has caused so many problems in western cities. Perhaps this will also mean that while East African cities continue to develop and grow richer, their citizens will still choose to embrace walking as the best way to move in the city.

Images courtesy of sameffron and carlosfpardo on Flickr.

When transportation shapes cities

A history of transportation from Innov the City by Andrew Perrier translated courtesy of Google

Until August 26, the City of Architecture and Heritage in Paris presents an exhibition devoted to the history of transportation in cities. Through a set design in twelve steps, “Flowing – when our movements shaping cities”, offers to browse the history and issues of mobility in cities and in our societies.

It is possible to understand the evolution of transport by a simple analysis of the evolution of footwear: “changing shoes will stagnate when the car will take off,” says the speaker of the exhibition “Move” . Original entry in this frieze of human figures, of homo sapiens to homo mobilis, to immerse yourself in the history of transportation. To understand that ultimately, the history of transportation is a constant renewal. In Roman times already, rivers conditioned the organization of cities, the boats are the only means of transport and communication. Today, shuttles and river freight are back, thanks to the emergence of sustainable development.

Farewell and the return of the tram

In the 19th century, transportation becomes the “sinews of war” to allow the development of cities, especially with the arrival of the train. In parallel, the arrival of the railway will lead to major changes in architectural and urban “stations Palace” will be highlighted by successive expositions. The first transport will emerge, including animal-drawn omnibuses. As is the case today in some sparsely populated areas, one could speak of “transport on demand”, with non-regular lines. Railways are progressively installed to make way for tram, winner of the late 19th century.Again, it is quickly supplanted by the bus, uses less heavy infrastructure. Nowadays, if the bus is still sought, particularly through the BRT (Bus High Level of Service) in urban areas, plans for new trams and tram-trains can not be counted in all cities of the world. Finally appears the subway, which develops first in London before arriving in Paris late.

The zoning of the Charter of Athens
In 1933, the Athens Charter dictates the principles of “functional city”, which created the concept of zoning, separating the residential areas of transportation: it is the beginning of “metro-work-sleep.” The backlash is in 1994 with the Aalborg Charter, which advocates instead a mix of urban functions. The cities are recovering to develop public transport so-called “soft” to rediscover the joy of “crossing the landscape” instead of spending his life in tubes. For that is the subject of this exhibition organized by the architect Jean-Marie Duthilleul: reintroduce the slow transport and distribute again the notion of pleasure associated with travel.