Reclaiming the Streets

Addis Ababa, Other African Cities Launch Car-Free Days - an article by Iman Abubaker published in The City Fix

Members of a local skating group, Megabi Skate, showcase their talent on the car-free streets of Addis Ababa. Photo by Nafkot Gebeyehu/Bete-Semay Creative Media Agency

African cities have an imbalance. Around half of the population walks, bikes or takes public transport to get around, usually under unsafe and difficult conditions. But despite this unusually high level of non-motorized mobility, street space is disproportionately allocated to motorized vehicles. Even in cities like Addis Ababa, where car ownership is very low, there is very little infrastructure devoted to keeping pedestrians and cyclists safe and helping them connect to where they want to go.

Now, however, we are seeing signs of a paradigm shift toward more pedestrian-oriented urban development.

Since Cape Town, South Africa, held its first car-free day in May 2013, other African cities have begun to follow suit. Kigali, Rwanda, launched regular car-free days in 2016, shutting down major roads and encouraging pedestrians to take to the streets. In the last year, Kampala, Uganda, and Nairobi, Kenya, began planning their own car-free days, and in December 2018, seven Ethiopian cities joined the movement: Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa, Bahir Dar, Hawassa, Adama, Jimma, and Jigiga.

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Iman Abubaker | The City Fix