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Monday, August 10, 2020

Are flyovers the problem or the solution to traffic flow in Lusaka?

Columns Are flyovers the problem or the solution to traffic flow in Lusaka?

By Chaka Zulu

The growing traffic problems in our city calls for urgent and effective remedies. Yet old-school ‘solutions’ such as flyovers, wider roads, and elevated expressways actually make matters worse. Flyovers represent a twentieth century delusion of free-flowing traffic, built at extraordinary costs for a very small percentage of road users.

Over decades, planning and development authorities around the world have fetishized the flyover as putative symbols of ‘modernity’ or ‘technological advancement’. Their actions to fuel the velocity and demand of private vehicles have shaped the urban space discourse. Flyovers continue to hack through the urbanscapes, displacing homes and economies.

In reality, while such infrastructure may provide a short-term illusion of relief from traffic flow, but by making it easier for people to use their own vehicles, new roads attract even more traffic and repeat the vicious cycle of congestion all over again.

Around the world, cities from Seoul to San Francisco are tearing down flyovers and/or rejuvenating dead spaces under the flyover with human scaled spaces that promote green modes of transport. In doing so, these cities have been able to reduce pollution, improve safety, and ensure that high quality public transport offers a meaningful alternative to sitting in traffic.

Cities in India have started to recognise that the key to urban mobility is moving people, not vehicles. In 2016, Ranchi (capital city of Jharkhand), a city for which ITDP India Programme has provided technical support since 2013, took bold steps and stalled the construction of two flyovers on Main Road.

The Urban Development and Housing Department, Government of Jharkhand, cancelled the flyover project that was proposed to decongest the city area, and instead focused on designing the street to prioritise the cleanest, most efficient modes: walking, cycling, and public transport.

Over a third of the population in India cities rely on walking, cycling, and other forms of human-powered transport to commute to work and get around cities every day. Increasing the use of cycles and the ease of walking is one of the most affordable and practical ways to reduce CO2 emissions, while boosting health and access to economic opportunity.

Lusaka should also focus on public transport driven mobility. By international standards, our cities need 20-30 km of mass rapid transit for every one million residents. This means that the greater city like Lusaka require over 200 km of rapid transit. Currently, NO suburban rail and metro combined, it would take three generations to build enough rapid transit in the city!

One of the most effective option to scale up the nation’s ability to provide high capacity public transport corridors is the Bus Rapid Transit, also known as the BRT. The system features dedicated median lanes for buses, allowing commuters to bypass the congestion in mixed traffic lanes.

A Bus Rapid Transit can carry anywhere between 10,000-30,000 people per hour per direction, which is approximately seven to eight times more than the capacity of a 2-lane flyover. The system can also be deployed quickly at a fraction of the cost of a flyover. A flyover costs approximately US$1M per km, whereas, a Bus Rapid Transit costs much less per km.

Cities like Seoul, San Francisco, Toronto, built flyovers between the 1950s and 1980s, only to pull them down later to make space for its people. To be ‘smart’, African cities must learn from these examples and best practises. Our cities should realise that such infrastructure only begets more traffic and pollution, and shift focus to prioritising walking, cycling, as a realistic solution for heathy benefits and the use of public transport for business opportunities for driver and conductors .

Imagine how healthy, cheaper and faster public transport would become and the job opportunities that will come with these innovative solution for the buses and taxis business.

Next we will look at how we are trying to decongest the city of Lusaka while recongesting it by building a 25,000 conference centre right in it.

The New Hope MMD in government will seek to provide enhanced mobility solutions for the public such as Metro and other efficient, cheaper modern transport solutions.

The author is the Chairperson of Transport and Communication in the New Hope MMD and also a Parliamentary candidate for Chadiza Constituency


  1. Please do your own research instead of copy and paste. Some of those countries you are citing are heavily populated and their city profiles defer from say Lusaka. Eish.

  2. Makes a lot of sense. I wonder how PF government comes up with their developmental models.Look at the design of those ‘new’ flyovers in Lusaka. They are so outdated. Who designed those monsters?

  3. He sounds informed on this issue. Real breath of fresh air and fresh thinking. He has had a bellyful of the PF corrupt and costly way of doing things no doubt.

  4. Easier said than done. A more practical example of say how you can decongest the Lumumba, Ben Bella, Cairo traffic jam in the short term rather than giving examples of foreign cities. Mind you, you need to incorporate the minibus traffic which transports millions daily in Lusaka.

  5. Whats the point of making a highway or 4 lanes when you put speed limit of 40 and 60 which dont make sense. Than you have traffic police waiting on a 40 zone waiting to pounce on you even if you are doing 42. If this was the case than we should have left the roads just 2 lanes so that the traffic moves slowly as before. If its 40 than they should just put up a sign saying bicycles only.

  6. Good write up. Mass transportation using trams for local travel and bullet trains between cities is the way to go.

  7. This is only true to a certain extent.
    The flyovers are not going the only solutions to the traffic problems in Lusaka, much more needs to be done in future and it will be.

  8. @Wako that is hilarious. But man don’t forget those potholes. Most accidents happen over 60km/hour then hit a hole.
    60km in miles is extremely slow.

  9. This is a brilliant write up! The MMD has some brilliant minds, I will give them that.
    The author appears well traveled, and we need that in people aspiring for public office. Our public officers cannot design anything they haven’t observed in practice, I use public transport rarely, as most of the time I am using my bicycle, you exercise and leave no carbon footprint.
    I am always at pains to understand why we don’t have Bicycle lanes on Zambian roads.

  10. We tried Njanji commuter train. It failed. The MMD liberalised the public transport sector and they allowed the importation of hundreds thousands of cars and trucks into Zambia without expanding the infrastructure. What PF is doing is to correct that shortcoming in the short term. Lusaka is the only city in Zambia that has congested roads, and the congestion is only at peak times. Lusaka is also a transit route for south-north-east-west traffic. Many uppity Zambians enjoy driving their cars and we have not yet developed the culture of public transport use. I bet many of our political leaders have never been on a minibus. Sadly, an SUV gas guzzler is cheaper to import than a 50 seater bus. So, policy is against public transport.

  11. Footpaths? Bicycle lanes? Buslanes? Rather than having four lanes of cars standing still, we should modify two of those four lanes for buses and bicycles – leaving space for pedestrians

  12. It’s called civil engineering and planning. Very difficult if your qulification was bought and not earned out of merit. Creative thinking in Zambia is nonexistent because those we trust with these affairs have their noses in the wrong places. We need a team of brave souls to be tasked with a project which would reflact the will of the people. KK’s projects stood the test of time.

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