Making space for pedestrians and cyclists in Zambian cities

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Zambia, a landlocked country in southern Africa, is home to over 16 million people. It is one of the most urbanized countries on continent, with 44 per cent of the population concentrated around a few major cities in the south-central and northwest of the country: Lusaka, the capital, and the Copperbelt Province, a major economic hub.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) and UN Environment are developing a non-motorized transport strategy for Zambia in partnership with a series of stakeholders, including the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry of Local Government, and the United Nations Development Programme. Building on Zambia’s National Transport Policy, the strategy will lay out a roadmap for government action to improve the walking and cycling environment, and catalyze investment in non-motorized transport.

Efficient mobility is critical to the prosperity of Zambia’s cities. Despite low car ownership, Lusaka experiences severe traffic congestion, making it difficult for residents to access economic and educational opportunities. The majority of trips in Lusaka are made by foot, followed by public transport, and with only around ten percent of trips made by car. Unfortunately, as is common in cities around the world, the priorities on the street do not serve the needs of the majority.

To this end, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, and UN Environment organized a stakeholder workshop entitled “Making Zambia a walking & cycling-friendly nation” on 24 May 2018 at the Government Complex in Lusaka. The event attracted over sixty participants from all over the country, including senior national government officials, engineers from the Road Development Agency and local authorities, public transport operators, the commuter association, the United Nations Development Programme, donor agencies, practitioners, civil society organizations and journalists.

The workshop provided an opportunity to share information on ongoing non-motorized transport initiatives and share best practices in providing safe, sustainable and equitable transport systems. The event served to sensitize stakeholders, create ownership and stimulate support for the Zambia non-motorized transport strategy. The srategy was discussed in detail to gather input from the participants.

Nicholas Chikwenya, Deputy Director, Transport, Ministry of Transport and Communications, delivered a thought-provoking keynote address highlighting key transport challenges resulting from population growth and rapid urbanization in Zambia. Chikwenya challenged Zambian engineers to design and implement safe, sustainable road infrastructure that serves the needs of all, especially the majority of road users who walk, cycle or use public transport. Citing the large number of road crashes affecting pedestrians and cyclists, he made a strong case for the Zambia non-motorized transport strategy as a step forward toward improving road safety.

Over recent years, the Government of Zambia has begun to invest significant sums in road infrastructure through projects such as the L400 initiative in Lusaka and the Ndola road improvement project. Yet poor designs and enforcement have contributed to a major human and economic toll. According to the Zambia Road Safety Trust, the country experienced 32,392 crashes in 2014, resulting in the deaths of 1,858 people. In Lusaka, over half of the victims are pedestrians and cyclists—the most vulnerable road users.

One of the most important projects over the coming years in Zambia will be the Lusaka Decongestion Project. Civil society stakeholders such as the Zambia Road Safety Trust have called on the government to ensure that pedestrian and cycle improvements form the core of the plan.

Promising initiatives are leading the way to a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists in Zambian cities. During a recent visit, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy met with the city government of Kitwe, where Mayor Christopher Kang’ombe launched the Pave Kitwe project to build high-quality pedestrian walkways. The mayor has secured private sector funds to cover the cost of materials, while the city government supplies the labour.

In Lusaka, the non-governmental organization Amend is working with schools and city authorities to implement safe slow-speed zones in school areas. These improvements have included new paving of footpaths, drainage, tabletop pedestrian crossings, signage and road markings.

Over the coming months, the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, and UN Environment will continue work with stakeholders to gather input for the non-motorized transport strategy, with consideration to vulnerable groups, especially children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.

UN Environment

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