A ‘green’ milestone awaits Kigali, tomorrow, when the city will have the first ever Car-Free Day from 7am through to noon.
The Car-Free Day will see the main highway connecting Amahoro National Stadium in Remera to the Central Business District closed off for those who wish to jog, walk and ride sports bicycles, a move that is aimed to encourage “healthy lifestyle” for city dwellers according to city authorities.
By introducing the “green transport,” City of Kigali authorities, together with Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), believe that city dwellers will as well be able to fight non-communicable diseases – particularly cardiovascular diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease – which are known to be common among people who have a poor diet, are overweight, tend to drink too much alcohol, and do not exercise as regularly as they should.
The 2015 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) by RBC shows that NCDs are on the rise in the country. For instance obesity, which increased from 16 per cent in 2011 to 21 per cent in 2015.
Jean-Claude Ruzindana, the director of social development at the City of Kigali, said exercise and sports can significantly reduce the prevalence of such non-communicable diseases, hence rallying all city residents—especially those who tend to have limited time for exercise to take advantage of the car-free day and join the mass sports and exercise programme tomorrow.
Motorists urged on observance
During the Car-Free Day, no vehicles will be allowed along the KN4 Avenue, KN3 Road, KN5 Road, KG11 Avenue, and KG17 Avenue from 7am to noon.
“The plan is that all those interested to take part in the mass exercise should be at the venues by 6am, for us to be able to manage time,” Ruzindana said.
He said for those who live in areas around the city centre such as Kiyovu, Nyamirambo, Muhima and Nyabugogo, the meeting point will be the Car-Free Zone by 6am.
While residents who reside in Remera, Kacyiru, Kimironko, Kanombe, Nyarutarama among others can converge at Amahoro Stadium, and be ready to kick off with mass jogging and walking.
“Since the entire road will be open for exercise. Those with bicycles will be asked to use the right section of the road, while those who will be walking and jogging should use the left side of the road,” said Ruzindana.
The two groups will then converge at Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) premises in Kimihurura, where RBC will offer free medical checkup for NCDs, “for those who want to be tested,” said Ruzindana.
He added that several public officials and City of Kigali mayor will take part in the mass exercise.
Jean-Marie-Vianney Ndushabandi, the spokesperson for Traffic and Road Safety department of Rwanda National Police, told Saturday Times that Police are ready to offer necessary support and guidelines to motorists who will need to use alternative roads to navigate to different parts of the city.
“We have many alternative ways connecting all parts of the city without necessarily using the affected highway. We urge motorists to respect the campaign,” he said.
The public has received the Car-Free Day announcement with mixed feelings, with some saying it is a good move, while others criticising the City for not consulting the public before hand.
Fiona Kamikazi, a social media enthusiast, said the decision was rushed.
Gonzaga Muganwa, a local journalist, on the other hand noted that, “the big aspect in it is the Car Free Day is part of awareness to healthy living. We know globally lifestyle diseases related to lack of physical exercises are increasing, so Kigalians should take full advantage of it.”