Kigali introduces car-free day

Come Sunday, no cars will be allowed along the route connecting the Car-Free Zone to city roundabout in the Central Business District through–Sopetrad–Kimihurura–Gishushu to Stade Amahoro, the City of Kigali announced yesterday.
Pedestrans walk through the Car-Free Zone in Kigali. The idea was initially criticised but city dwellers have since warmed up to it. (T. Kisambira)
Pedestrans walk through the Car-Free Zone in Kigali. The idea was initially criticised but city dwellers have since warmed up to it. (T. Kisambira)

Come Sunday, no cars will be allowed along the route connecting the Car-Free Zone to city roundabout in the Central Business District through–Sopetrad–Kimihurura–Gishushu to Stade Amahoro, the City of Kigali announced yesterday.

The affected route is KN4 Avenue—KN3 Road—KN5 Road—KG11 Avenue—KG17 Avenue. But alternative roads connecting to and fro the city centre will remain open for motorists.

The indicated highway connecting Remera to the city centre will be car-free, only permitting pedestrians and those riding bicycles from 7am to noon.

“The move is aimed at encouraging mass sports and exercise along the affected route through introducing the much anticipated green transport and green city,” according to City Mayor Monique Mukaruliza.

“In a bid to promote healthy lifestyle for the residents of Kigali, the City authorities have introduced mass sports and exercises, to encourage people to walk, jog as well as ride bicycles. It is in this context that we have introduced a monthly car-free day, and this month it will happen on May 29.”

The City Council, together with Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), are partnering in promoting ‘Green Transport’—which involves jogging and riding bicycles—to fight Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) among city dwellers.

The 2015 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) by RBC indicates that NCDs are on the rise in the country. A case in point is obesity, which increased from 16 per cent in 2011 to 21 per cent in 2015.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), NCDs kill 38 million people globally each year. Almost three quarters of NCD deaths – that is 28 million – occur in low- and middle-income countries.

According to Dr Jeanine Condo, the director-general of RBC, exercises and sports can “significantly” reduce the prevalence of non-communicable diseases.

“Prevention is better than treatment. We are trying to see how we can cooperate with the City of Kigali, on a monthly basis to promote green transport. This will surely reduce the rate of non-communicable diseases among city residents and Rwandans in general at a significant rate,” Condo said.

‘Good for the body’

Condo said using the car-free day to walk and jog will help the corporate city dwellers—who hardly find time to go to the gym—to be able to exercise and lose some fats, consequently reducing the risks of acquiring non communicable diseases, such as diabetes, blood pressure, among others.

“We do treat non-communicable diseases, but we encourage prevention over treatment. That’s why we are partnering with city of Kigali to encourage mass exercises during car-free day,” she said.

RBC launched the NCDs Week on Monday, and the free exercise will run until the car-free day on Sunday. The voluntary medical checkup is being conducted in the Car-Free Zone, in downtown Kigali.

Mayor Mukaruliza said, through introducing car-free day, “it is a message we want to give to residents of Kigali, that the roads are to be used by those owning cars but the roads can as well be used by those who want to do sports. This is part of the city master plan to promote a green city and green transport.”

She added that, to abide by the City master plan, all new roads under construction will cater for both pedestrians and bicycle riders

“We are inviting all Rwandans in and around Kigali city to take part in the car-free day, and throughout that time, RBC will be offering necessary free check-ups for non-communicable diseases.” Mukaruliza added.

When asked about the effect of car-free day to business around the city, Mukaruliza said there will be several other roads through which car owners can drive to and from the city without necessarily going through the designated places.

“For those driving to the airport, there will be other roads open during the designated time. And we believe that closing off a road half-day will not affect any businesses,” she said.

The mayor said the City of Kigali is currently working on a design to establish a public park, adding that “once the design is ready, we will call for private investors to bid for the construction of the public park.”

“We have big plots of land in Kimicanga and Nyamirambo designated for the public parks. This, we believe, will encourage some jogging and sports exercises as we continue to push for a green city,” Mukaruliza said.

It is indicated that roads reserved for car-free days will keep changing in subsequent car-free day editions, according to the City.

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