By Daniel Mwamba
I hereby welcome and congratulate His Excellency the President of Zambia Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu for the recent successful commissioning of the Munali Flyover Bridge which is part of the Lusaka Decongestion Project (LDP). The LDP project is well intended, with potential wider benefits for economic growth and motoring safety.
Widening Lusaka’s road network or increasing capacity is the most common solution proposed for congestion: just add extra lanes. But, when a congested road is widened, it attracts more motorists (who switch from other modes, change their travel times, or move to new housing developments in areas surrounding the motorway) and soon becomes congested again. The additional traffic is called induced traffic.
It’s clear that the walking and cycling measures have not been considered in the LPD project, as a means of improving transport system performance or for reducing congestion. The LPD project has sadly missed the significance of walking and cycling given that lots of our people do a lot of walking compared to motorists.
The inability of the LPD project to accurately assess the transport benefits and impacts of walking and cycling measures has led to a belief among the public that walking and cycling is not important for reducing congestion. This has deprived Lusaka City of an effective means for reducing congestion.
Walking and cycling should be put on an equal footing with motorized transport modes as a solution to tackle Lusaka congestion. We have many examples that have worked in most cities around the world for us not to wait another 50 years for this to happen.
For instance, in Dublin, Ireland pedestrianization improves mobility and accommodates 700 more people during rush hour; pedestrian improvements reduced bus travel times by 40% in Strasbourg, France, while new pedestrian plazas reduced journey times for taxis and buses by 15% in New York, USA.
In Copenhagen, Denmark cycling improvements led to 45% less car traffic and faster public transport, cycle highway reduced time spent in congestion by 3.8 million hours in The Netherlands, and cycle highway network reduced the need for 50,000 car journeys daily in Ruhr area, Germany.
A recent analysis of travel survey data established that Londoners make nearly 2.4 million journeys daily by motorised modes (car, motorcycle, taxi or public transport) that could be walked all the way. 40% of these trips would take most people less than 10 minutes to walk
We should invest more in the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Motorists rarely consider safety when making travel decisions because there is a certain common level of safety (everyone is in large metal boxes), but safety is an important consideration when walking or cycling.
Walking is the only universal mode: everyone walks, regardless of their age, gender, and social status. Walking is also the absolute oldest way to travel from one place to another.
Similarly, cycling is associated with significant benefits in terms of health, decrease in local air pollution, reduction of the transport contribution to climate change, and the contribution to a safer urban environment. By investing in cycling infrastructure and by promoting the bicycle as a sustainable, healthy, and reliable mode of transport, the government through the Lusaka City Council can play an important role in increasing the cycling modal share.
I am, therefore, appealing to the government to make all transportation modes count in urban transport. Let’s put walking and cycling on an equal footing with other modes to reduce the impacts of congestion. We have to make the best use of our road space. Pedestrians and cyclists use space more efficiently than private cars. The future of cities is about walkability, bikeability, and liveability!