Obstacles for Non-motorized Transport in Developing Countries - a Case Study of Nairobi, Kenya

Obstacles for Non-motorized Transport in Developing Countries - a Case Study of Nairobi, Kenya

WINNER OF The Planning for Sustainable Land Use and Transport Award


T. Becker, TU Dresden, DE


Non-motorized transport has potentials to achieve a sustainable urban structure in developing countries, but funds are only allocated to roads. The paper identifies by literature and expert interviews the reasons and recommends measurements.


Walking and cycling are considered to be the most preferred modes in urban transport in industrialized countries - there are no local environmental effects like noise or air pollution, the need of space is minimal, they have a very low energy consumption and from the users perspective they are healthy and affordable for everyone. Many European cities showed progress in increasing the modal share of non-motorized transport (NMT) throughout the last decade. In contrast, NMT still plays a large role in developing urban centers (e.g. NMT modal share Nairobi: 48 %), although the level of safety, efficiency and comfort is very low. However, the focus of all planning activities are on vehicle-oriented road construction. The projects are often funded by development aid to produce relieve from congestion.

Some local and international stakeholders are aware of the necessity of NMT-promotion, but in reality the emphasis is on motorized transport. This paper points out the reasons behind this observation and develops approaches to improve the situation. The first part of the analysis focuses on studies and project plans on NMT-policies in developing cities with a emphasis on Nairobi to identify general trends and approaches for an integrated transport planning. In the second part, in-depth interviews with stakeholders from government agencies, NGO, international donor agencies, consultants and researchers are conducted. Different levels in the hierarchy are covered, ranging from top-management to junior staff members. The interviews goal is to detect daily problems of practitioners and systematic shortcomings. Measurements for improvements are derived in a last step.

The following reasons for poor NMT-conditions are discovered (in short):
- No lack of infrastructure funding, but mislead allocation
- Believe in motorization and technological advancement as the only approach
- Poor planning and design guidelines which encourages trial and error
- Rural road design being built in urban areas
- Lack of knowledge about planning and designing infrastructure for non-motorized users
- Low awareness for the accessibility needs of the majority in society which has low incomes
- Underdeveloped lobbying organizations for NMT
- Interrelationship with security and crime level
- Lack of driving skills and risk awareness among vehicle drivers
- Speeding and low obedience of traffic rules

It turned out that many of the current urban transport problems in Nairobi like congestion and very high accident rates could be improved by enhancing NMT with a package of measurements like policy changes, education funding allocation. Focusing on infrastructure is not enough. Instead, it takes an interdisciplinary, integrated and holistic approach.

The analysis was carried out in Nairobi during a three month stay in the city. The project was independent from any local stakeholder because it was funded by a German academic exchange program. However, it was done in close collaboration with a government funded Kenyan research institute.


Association for European Transport