I am writing this while away from Kigali both physically and to a large extent mentally. This therefore means that my finger on the city’s beat is not firm enough. I heard from somewhere that today some roads will be closed off to allow city dwellers to indulge in healthy activities away from car fumes as they burn some calories walking or jogging. I understand it is an extension of the car free zone concept into what is now a car free day.
The Kigali City Council authorities are clearly pro-health and are not afraid to occasionally annoy those ‘hardworking’ people who just want to enjoy their cars on the pothole-free roads the city is known for. Today’s plan comes on the back of the Kigali Peace Marathon that seems to be growing into a must attend event each year.
Even without corporate companies organising marathons or city authorities suggesting a car free day, residents of Kigali always know there is space for them to run around. In the mornings it is not rare to see fitness freaks jogging along the streets of Kigali. Even late in the evenings others can be seen jogging under the street lights often with ears plugged to some music probably to give them some more rhythm as their feet hit the ground.
I am not the jogging type preferring to just resort to skipping a rope when I feel my fitness is becoming a concern. Skipping allows me to do what those who jog do without leaving my home. I do however envy those who love jogging because Kigali is probably the best place to do so. The security is tight, the streets are well lit, and there is almost no risk of falling into an open manhole (I wonder why a gender sensitive term hasn’t been found for these things) as is sometimes the case elsewhere.
Now that the city is clearly taking care of the concerns of the joggers, how about people like me who don’t want to run but prefer to sit. No we are not the lazy kind; we are simply the normal type. We want to be able to sit in the city without necessarily walking into a coffee shop and struggling to pronounce espresso without adding an imaginary x.
We want to be able to live that life we see in movies where you set up a meeting with a friend on a park bench and leave a package at the bench and walk away in different directions just like they do in movies.
On a more serious note, I remember suggesting to the previous Kigali City Mayor, Fidele Ndayisaba to have some benches within the city for people to sit and catch their breath as they navigate the different hills or just sit and read a newspaper or a book.
The only benches I see are the ones at the Kimihurura roundabout that is a must stop for newlyweds as they take their wedding photos. I have never sat on those ones because I keep thinking someone may think I just had a lousy wedding and my bride has run off. But of course those few benches are not enough for a city the size of Kigali and bus stop benches do not count here.
I also remember suggesting to the previous mayor that some spots of the city should have a shoe shiner because sometimes one comes from a dusty part of the city and suddenly finds himself or herself in the midst of important people who drive to work and it becomes hard to impress them that you will do a good job yet your shoes look like they just survived a desert storm.
I am almost certain that it is not just me advocating for more holistic city lifestyle that allows some to run and others to sit. If you are reading this and you would love Kigali to have some beautiful park benches please add your voice to mine before I am written off as a lazy and crazy writer who just can’t afford to sit in swanky coffee shops.
There is a lot we can do to make our cities better living spaces than just the concrete jungles that they are. There is so much we can do to make our cities better places to live in. I would have said more but that would be offering too much free consultancy for a day.