The solution to Harare’s transport anarchy is the introduction of more journeys by bicycling and planning our cities for the future by introducing cycle tracks on all major roads.
BY Jacob Mutisi
As Harare plans to be a modern city by 2025, a humanistic, people-friendly city has to be accessible.
Most of the world’s capital cities today are plagued by traffic congestion, and in densely populated city areas, the fastest way of getting around is often on a bicycle, which is a highly efficient means of transport.
Harare is the only major capital city without an urban transport network system. Council authorities must start to draw up a bicycle strategy, policy and plan, and this must be integrated into town planning. It must include all the stakeholders in the strategic plan. Harare’s source of transport and traffic problem stems from the fact that there are too many cars on the road, with no infrastructure to support those huge volumes, having been last upgraded in the 1990s. Harare city may never have enough roads built in it to accommodate the almost 1 000 vehicles added every month. Worldwide, and from the studies done it is a well-known fact that the supply of more roads just creates the demand for their usage. Zimbabwe’s transport solution lies in a better public transport system, alternative forms of transportation, and most importantly, controlling and reducing the use of vehicles. Presently, the council does not have the capacity to maintain our roads, let alone build new ones to solve the problem.
The bicycle must be a major component of the comprehensive transport plan for the City of Harare. History describes the bicycle as the most efficient and cost-effective mode of transportation ever invented by the human race that can travel within a radius of 20km.
An average car weighs about 1,5 tonnes and carries one person weighing 70kg most of the time; that is only 15% of its weight. In comparison, a bicycle weighs 20kg and can easily carry ten times of its weight. Its other benefits are that the bicycle takes up minimum road space and can go anywhere, and does not cause any traffic jam. All that is needed is a two-metre lane separated by a solid lane for to-and-from traffic.
Many cities in the world now have woken to this fact and the more progressive cities are actively promoting bicycling as a form of transport in the cities. In Denmark, the capital Copenhagen transformed its city into the “world champion” of urban cycling.
Copenhagen now has healthier, happier citizens with a population less dependent on cars. Singapore is now drafting a comprehensive plan for making the bicycle one alternative form of transportation. The City of Harare will immediately need a bicycling plan and strategy as counter for the day-to-day traffic jams.
City planners must have a solid understanding of how modern cities have included bicycling in their urban planning. Cities of bicycles are very much people-friendly, and city planning that considers pedestrians and cyclists stands to form a significant contribution to the humanistic city of the future.
A good example is Calgary, a city in Canada. When authorities introduced a barrier-segregated bicycle lane straight through the city centre, there was an uptake of bicycle usage. More people left their cars at home and started travelling by bike. Amazingly, the project cost was 19% less than the projected cost of $7 million, and other Canadian cities are now adopting this model.
Cities worldwide have started to adopt bicycling as part of an overall strategy on sustainable development and the desire to become green cities. The development of bicycling path networks that can supplement the public transport system also makes a significant contribution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Harare must start to draw up a bicycle strategy, policy and plan, and this must be integrated into town planning. It should be coherent with the overall transport network.
There is urgent need to cut down on the use of motor vehicles and encourage people to use a healthier mode of transport.