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CYCLING IN KLA: WHAT KCCA MUST FOCUS ON & IMPROVE

By Mulengera Reporters

Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) is piloting a bicycle-sharing project along the Non-Motorized Transport corridor that stretches from Bakuli, through Namirembe Road and Luwum Street to Entebbe Road. The pilot, conducted together with the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Kampala Cycling Club, is funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety.  Judith Mbabazi, the coordinator of the World Resources Institute, says that the pilot is intended to establish whether the people of Kampala want bicycle renting services, whether it is feasible and what challenges are associated with cycling in Kampala.

The ultimate goal is to introduce bicycle sharing in the city through a public-private partnership. And this, Mbabazi says, is why the pilot is important such that when cycling is rolled out, it’s safe for the public. The partnering companies have for over a week now been running the program which, intriguingly, has registered a lukewarm response from the public so far. Any person can hire the bike for an hour at Shs1,000 or the entire day from 8 am to 5 pm at Shs7,000.

The service is restricted as the bicycles are only to be used along the NMT corridor and the nearby streets. The bicycle has a chip that bars cyclists from using it beyond the permissible area. When URN visited the area where bikes were being hired, only two cyclists had hired a bicycle.

Mbabazi says the low response is indicative of how cycling is not yet popular as a form of transport in Kampala and this is partly because of the misconception that cycling is for the poor and for men. Some members of the public she has interacted with have also revealed they can’t use bicycles in Kampala for fear of being knocked down by motorists.

Although the NMT corridor is designed for only pedestrians, since it was completed in 2021, it has also been used by vehicles and Boda-bodas. Even the bike parking racks that were installed last month have been taken over by motorcycle Boda-bodas.

Eng. Joel Wasswa, the manager of traffic and road management at KCCA, says that the authority has an existing Non-Motorized Transport system in Kampala that shall be implemented with the availability of funds. He says the plan is to expand the current NMT corridor to connect to Speke Road and City Square. KCCA also wants to construct an NMT along the railway line from Kampala to Namanve, according to Wasswa.

KCCA wants to popularize cycling as one of the ways to promote safe road use in Kampala but most importantly reduce the traffic congestion and jam in the City which costs the people an estimated 24,000 work hours annually. But experts say cycling is not viable in Kampala due to the inadequacy of road infrastructure, poor road use and the attitude of road users. According to a 2022 KCCA report on the state of Kampala Affairs, the current road network in Kampala was constructed for less than 100,000 vehicles in the 1960s and yet today there are over 600,000 vehicles on the same roads.

“It is a fact that road users are attracted to good roads, meaning that the 650km of paved roads in Kampala are overwhelmed by demand,” reads the report in part. Kampala has 2,110KMs of road; 70.5% (1,482.58km) of which is unpaved. Experts agree that because the roads are too old and motorists have to drive to different lanes to dodge potholes, there is high competition for space on the roads.

Saddam Kaggwa, an Urban Planner working with Actogether Uganda says that cycling can only be effective if the necessary Infrastructure is set up such that vehicles, motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians don’t have to compete for space. During the COVID 19 lockdown, when private vehicles were banned, Kaggwa used a bike but describes his experience as risky.

“I used Entebbe road, Jinja road, Bweyogere and Kitemu during the lockdown and noticed how challenging it was. Much as there were few vehicles on the road, it was dangerous with cars running at a high speed and yet there is no designated space for cyclists. I saw how dangerous it is to ride on our roads here,” Kaggwa reveals.

He further observes that Uganda is running a majorly 12-hour economy where the majority of workers come to town between 6am and 10am and leave between 5pm and 10pm, making the roads highly competitive during the rush hours.

Brian Yiga, a trainer at the Uganda Driving Licensing Agency (UDSA), agrees with Kaggwa that cycling isn’t viable in Kampala as of now. Yiga’s concern is mainly about road use. He says many motorists are ignorant about proper road use practices which makes the roads unsafe for cycling.  “It is disastrous, according to the way I see the set-up. It’s disastrous because we have more of the motorbikes than even the cars. So, we are going to put the cyclists in danger based on what I have been seeing,” Yiga noted.

In March this year, the Ministry of Works and Transport, KCCA and Uganda Driving Licensing Agency launched training for Boda-Boda riders in Kampala to equip them with knowledge of traffic laws, road signs and other good practices for a driver.

Yiga, who was one of the trainers and handled over 1000 Boda-Boda riders, describes the road practices in the City as “mayhem.” His description is based on what he has observed on the road and from his interactions with the riders he has trained. “It’s mayhem and if you add bicycles to the equation you will make it worse. So many people don’t know how to use the road. They don’t know road signs and they don’t know road markings. Cycling is not practical, not in this city set up,” said Yiga.

His suggestion is that massive sensitization of the public be conducted such that every road user respects another and follows traffic laws. Kaggwa also suggests that KCCA adopts an Integrated City Transport system to accommodate both motorized and non-motorized transport and construct wider roads with designated bicycle lanes.

Anna Oursler, the urban mobility coordinator of the World Resources Institute, says that the government should also enforce proper road use and specifically the NMT corridor if cycling is to be safer. Kampala is not re-inventing the wheel with cycling. Dutch countries, which include the Netherlands, are globally known for their high level of cycling. Research shows that with over 22m bicycles for 17m inhabitants in the Netherlands, over 27% of all trips are made by bicycle.

The growth of cycling there has been attributed to their culture but also to the availability of convenient infrastructure. The Netherlands has 32,000KMs of bicycle lanes and one of the largest bicycle parking facilities in the world. There also is a vast network of clearly marked cycle paths with smooth surfaces, separate signs and lights. The paths are often completely segregated from motorized traffic and are wide enough to allow for overtaking. At some places on bike paths where bicycles have to share a road with motorists, it is cleared signed ‘Bike Street: Cars are guests.’ (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 0200900416 or email us at mulengeranews@gmail.com).

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