Nairobi to invest in walking and cycling

Main Image
NMT policy is presented at the launch event
NMT policy is presented at the launch event
Rob de Jong, UNEP/FIA Foundation partnership, speaking at the NMT policy launch
Rob de Jong, UNEP/FIA Foundation partnership, speaking at the NMT policy launch
Avi Silverman, FIA Foundation, and Rob de Jong at the UN Avenue cycle lane pilot project
Avi Silverman, FIA Foundation, and Rob de Jong at the UN Avenue cycle lane pilot project
Children are among the most at risk in Nairobi’s heavy traffic
Children are among the most at risk in Nairobi’s heavy traffic

Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, will invest twenty per cent of all road budget towards low carbon transport, the city’s Governor has announced.

The policy is the first scaled-up success for the ‘Share the Road’ initiative of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the FIA Foundation. The joint initiative has included a demonstration pilot on UN Avenue in Nairobi, introducing pedestrian sidewalks and segregated cycle lanes, as well as provision of technical advice to other cities in East Africa.

The announcement was made on 17 March 2015 by Mr. Mohamed Abdullahi, County Executive - Roads, Public Works & Transport, on behalf of Dr. Evans Kidero, Governor of Nairobi City County at the launch of the Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) policy for Nairobi.

Mr. Abdullahi announced that the County Government will commit 20% percent of all funds allocated to roads to construction towards NMT and public transport infrastructure. “Even as we streamline the flow of vehicle traffic into and out of Nairobi, we must also take account of the often ignored non-motorized transport”, Mr. Abdullahi said. “The NMT policy prepared today outlines the county’s objective of increasing the role of NMT as a transport mode, integrating NMT as an essential element of public transport, providing safe NMT infrastructure & allocating adequate and sustainable funding for the development & promotion of NMT.”

The policy was developed in partnership between Nairobi City County, the Kenya Alliance of Residence Associations and the United Nations Environment Programme and aims to develop and maintain a transport system that fully integrates NMT as part of the Nairobi transport system. The policy will act as a catalyst in creating a safe, cohesive and comfortable network of footpaths, cycling lanes and tracks, green areas, and other support amenities. It will also spearhead the introduction of laws and regulations to ensure that NMT facilities and
areas are prioritised.

The development of this policy was made possible through support from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and their programme for Strengthening Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change in Kenya Plus (StARCK+) and the UNEP/FIA Foundation Share the Road Initiative. Share the Road brings together the environment and safety agendas in the context of urban transport in the developing world where the majority, pedestrians and cyclists, are disadvantaged on the road. The overall goal of the initiative is to promote systematic investments in walking and cycling infrastructure.

Speaking at the launch Rob de Jong, Head of the Transport Unit for UNEP, said: “Today is a milestone for Nairobi, because the city is leading the way on recognising the importance of non-motorised transport for Kenya and transforming their transport model from a car-centred approach with high levels of congestion, air pollution and accident rates to a mobility scenario that is focused on people and will see the introduction of effective mass rapid transit systems, connected with walking and cycling facilities, and an accessible city centre, with improved safety and reduced energy use and emissions.’’

The launch of the NMT policy for Nairobi comes at a critical time for a city where 47% of the population walk as their main daily mode of transport. Research by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) found in 2004 that, out of 4.82 million person trips per day 2.32 million trips per day were made by walking and bicycles. But despite this evidence investment strategies have continued to focus on moving cars rather than people and high road traffic injury rates among pedestrians and cyclists in Nairobi serves as an indicator of how unsafe it is to walk or cycle in Nairobi. 2014 road accident data from Nairobi City County showed that out of 723 fatalities, some 507 (70%) were pedestrians. In response efforts are currently underway to introduce legislation to reduce speed limits around schools in Kenya to 30 kph to protect children from speeding traffic.

Demonstrating its commitment to stakeholder engagement and involvement of civil society, Nairobi County undertook a robust consultation process during the policy development including setting up a stand-alone ‘citizen dialogue’ event to take into account the views of civil society in Nairobi. Symbolic of this ongoing partnership, two bicycles were donated at the NMT policy launch by the organisation ‘Two Wheels Power’ (a local organization which advocates for cycling in Kenya) to the County and Mr. Mohamed Abdullahi and Mr. Ben Ndegwa of Two Wheels Power took a cycle ride together to mark the launch.

The launch of the NMT policy for Nairobi followed the recent Africa Sustainable Transport Forum held at the United Nations Headquarters in Nairobi in October 2014. The event was hosted by the Kenyan Government with support from UNEP, The World Bank, the SSATP and UN-Habitat. The agenda focused on challenges, in terms of day to day realities of sustainable transport in Africa, and discussed solutions in the context of green growth and emissions reductions. At the close of the three day event, Ministers and Heads of Delegations adopted a list of priority actions in four areas; road safety, vehicles and emissions, sustainable infrastructure and enabling conditions. The road safety actions included a commitment for all countries to put in place an NMT policy and guidelines by the end of 2015.

Endorsing the new NMT policy, Dr. Evans Kidero, Governor of Nairobi City County, said: “Having attended the African Sustainable Transport forum in October 2014, in Nairobi, I realise that NMT is of significant importance to Nairobi, more particularly as it can be used as an effective form of mobility for short trips and for last mile connectivity to the proposed mass transportation systems such as bus rapid transit. There is clear evidence that NMT provides efficient mobility for substantially lower investment, improves access, creates livelihoods and is a low carbon emitter”.

The County (as part of the NMT policy) has already set out its planned next steps including establishment of a steering committee to develop an implementation action plan to underpin the policy, identification of priority roads for NMT infrastructure upgrades and identification and implementing quick wins such as adoption of NMT design guidelines.

Saul Billingsley, Director General of the FIA Foundation, welcomed the announcement: “For several years the FIA Foundation and UNEP have worked together to build the ‘Share the Road’ concept in a way that is relevant to the needs of fast-growing East African cities. This work has included technical support to local government in cities in Rwanda and Uganda, as well as Kenya. This announcement by the Nairobi authorities can represent real progress for providing fair access to mobility for pedestrians and cyclists in the city, and an advance for public health, for road safety, and for efforts to combat climate change. Now the challenge is to ensure that the policy is delivered for the benefit of the people of the Nairobi.”

Download the Non-Motorised Transport Policy for Nairobi

Find out more about the UNEP/FIA Foundation Share the Road Programme at

Find out more about the African Sustainable Transport Forum at