Ethiopia takes action for more sustainable transport for all

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In the capital, Addis Ababa, pedestrian trips account for 54% of all journeys.
In the capital, Addis Ababa, pedestrian trips account for 54% of all journeys.
The Government's new policies will discourage private vehicle use with measures including infrastructure for safe walking and cycling.
The Government's new policies will discourage private vehicle use with measures including infrastructure for safe walking and cycling.

Ethiopia is rebuilding its streets to prioritise active transport for a safer, more sustainable, future, with new commitments, investment, and policies, with support from international partners including the FIA Foundation-funded programme Share The Road programme.

Cities and towns in Ethiopia are undergoing rapid population and economic growth and while walking is the dominant mode of transport – for example in Addis Ababa pedestrian trips account for 54% of all journeys - transport planning and the provision of infrastructure has largely been car-centric, with infrastructure designed for the car driving minority.

The Government has committed to ensure that Ethiopian cities and rural centres will provide safe, efficient, and accessible walking and cycling networks while reducing private vehicle travel to improve mobility for all residents, enhance access to opportunities, and facilitate inclusive urbanisation.

The country's Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) strategy was developed by the Federal Transport Authority with support from Share The Road, a joint UN Environment and FIA Foundation programme, as well as collaboration with UN Habitat, ITDP and the Ministry of Works of Ethiopia. It commits to increased investment for the provision of safe crossings, dedicated facilities for NMT,  improved last-mile connectivity to public transit, bike share schemes and policy measures to curb and control the use of private vehicles.

A dedicated NMT Government Committee was also set up to monitor and evaluate the process, including the development of a series of targets to achieve by 2030:

  • 80% of all motorised trips to be taken on public transport/paratransit;
  • NMT should represent at least 60% of journeys;
  • Gender parity in cyclists;
  • Four-fifths reduction in pedestrians and cyclist fatalities from 2019 levels; and
  • Ambient air quality to meet 95% of World Health Organisation standards.

The national strategy obligates cities with populations of more than 50,000 to develop Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP) to ensure walking and cycling make up 80% of the modal share. Other targets focus on the introduction of walking and/or cycling infrastructure, traffic calming measures, school zone treatments, and pedestrian zones.

Financial provisions are key to ensuring targets are met and projects will only receive federal funds "if the roads are designed as complete streets with adequate facilities for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transport users." The Federal Government also requires that NMT infrastructure spend must constitute a third of total transport initiative spending and no more than a third can be used to facilitate private car use.

The Government furthermore recognised that capacity building is essential, using best practice from around the world to develop and implement effective polices, working with a range of internationalpartners. ITDP helped develop Addis Ababa’s NMT strategy, building 28 km of walkways in one year and creating an ambitions target of 200km of safe and high-quality cycling infrastructure by 2028. The Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS) has been very active in the city, supporting behavioural change campaigning, drink driving, data, and reporting, in addition to investing in major infrastructure design and tactical urbanism interventions led by the World Resources Institute and NACTO – Global Designing Cities Initiative.

Building public understanding of the benefits of shifting public space away from vehicles to modes like walking and cycling is significant for the success of NMT policies. 'Menged Le Sew' ('Streets for People') is a Government backed monthly car-free day which originally started in the capital, Addis Ababa, and is extending to other cities following public demand.

Rebalancing infrastructure to prioritise NMT has a profound impact on equity; shifting focus from the small, affluent section of society able to afford private transit to the modes used by lower-income groups, including walking, cycling, and public transport, and road space will be allocated equitably to facilitate safe access through these modes. The Strategy also seeks to ensure gender parity by supporting the development of an integrated and safe transport system that provides access to education, work, health care, cultural, and other important activities that are crucial to women’s participation and rights. This encompasses both the journeys themselves and the infrastructure that frames women's experiences from door to door, addressing issues such as lighting and visibility which pose particular dangers.

Following these commitments, the next step for mobility partners like Share The Road, ITDP and UN Habitat will now be to support capacity building and provide technical assistance, starting with an assessment of needs of vulnerable groups and developments of fiscal and infrastructure policies to support an effective implementation of the strategy.

Saul Billingsley, Executive Director of the FIA Foundation, said: "Effective policy-making combined with targeted funding, dedicated to improving journeys for the vast majority who do not use private vehicles, means that millions will be safer from road dangerand from toxic emissions produced by motorised vehicles. The FIA Foundation is proud to support Share the Road, with partner UN Environment, as it helps countries understand their unique challenges and develop effective Non-Motorised Transport strategies for safer and more equitable transport for all."