Nairobi is planning car-free days. They could bring many benefits - Nairobi News
5 months ago, 6 July 06:48
With private cars off the road, the plan is to include more buses, a light railway and a rapid bus transit system.
Though no specific date has been set for the car-free initiative, major roads leading to the city are being upgraded to facilitate the new systems. The county government says the changes on Nairobi’s roads would take six months.
All of these changes will need to be done quickly and efficiently. Given the lack of public transport infrastructure in the city, those who can’t afford a private vehicle generally commute using buses or matatus (40.6 per cent) – privately owned minibuses which will be phased out. And those who can’t afford any form of transport generally walk (39.7 per cent).
But the effort will be worth it. Research shows that cities benefit from car-free days in many ways. This includes traffic decongestion and reductions in time wasted, fewer car crashes and less noise and air pollution.
Car free days also increase social interaction and physical activity. Overall the change will, if sustained, improve the health and well-being of the city’s residents.
The impact of going car-free goes well beyond decongesting the city.
Space that is freed up from vehicles, like roads and parking lots, could be used to create green areas – quality public spaces where people can congregate, socialise and relax. The green spaces will also reduce the heat island effect – when built-up areas are hotter than nearby rural areas – an effect known to cause premature mortality due to heart disease.
Another big health concern in developing countries’ fast-growing cities is air pollution. Car emissions account for 90 per cent in urban areas. Car-free days are known to reduce certain types of air pollution by 20 to 78 per cent.
Air pollution does a huge amount of damage to people’s health. Worldwide, nearly four million people die prematurely due to ambient air pollution, caused by industries, households, cars and trucks. And exposure to traffic related air pollution has been directly linked to increases in cases of childhood asthma and early deaths. This is particularly the case for those who spend a lot of time along highly trafficked roads – like pedestrians, motorists, traffic police and street vendors.
Car-free days are expected to reduce pollution in Nairobi where an exceptionally large amount comes from traffic. This is clear from the fact that the levels of particulate matter are 11.17 times higher on a curb in the central business district during the day than a rural background site.
Another benefit in reducing congestion is the reduction of noise pollution. Noise levels in Nairobi are approaching the healthy hearing limit. Most of the noise stems from traffic. High levels of noise aren’t just annoying or disturbing. They can also cause heart conditions and reduce cognitive functioning in ...
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