The government has given a new directive to have some streets closed to traffic every Wednesday and Saturday. Following this directive, residents of Nairobi will be expected to use public service vehicles to access the central business district (CBD).
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia says that there will be no exception to the directive that is meant to ease congestion in the city., Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) and the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek). However, the legality and practicability of the order has been faulted by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK)
The directive is the brainchild of the Nairobi Regeneration Committee that was appointed in March last year to tackle the city’s most pressing problems. The directive is the latest in a string of missteps by the committee, which late last year caused a city-wide gridlock after banning public service vehicles (PSVs) from accessing the CBD.
Some cities around the world have successfully enforced car-free days. Nonetheless, such cities have adequate, efficient and reliable public transport systems unlike Nairobi. Moreover, the city lacks cycling lanes and safe pedestrian walking zones which are key alternatives in cities with organized mass transit systems.
Jacqueline Mugo, Executive Director FKE says: “The idea is good. However, Nairobi does not have a workable public transport system. Workers can’t cycle in the city. We don’t have that culture.”
LSK president Allen Gichuhi said that the State should have consulted all the stakeholders before effecting the directive. He further adds that the directive is bound to be challenged in court by the disturbed parties.
Mr. Gichuhi has called for Mr. Macharia to produce guidelines that will be followed to implement the directive which he dubs as unconstitutional. Nairobi will join other cities that have closed down streets for drivers, should the car-free days be implemented. Such cities include Kigali, Mexico City, Beijing and Copenhagen.