Kigali has some of the best roads many countries would dream to have for a capital city. Many columnists, including myself, have written about the smoothness and the good conditions in which these roads are kept.
Accessibility to any part of the city has never been a big deal as there are existing roads to transverse through to any desired destination.
However, some sections of our roads have begun to attract one of the biggest challenges of modern cities – the traffic jams or otherwise known as traffic congestion.
Just like in other cities in the region, such as Nairobi and Kampala, which are capitals best known for traffic congestion, mainly in the morning and at peak hours in the evenings, our city roads are already acquiring this notorious status slowly but surely, something that should attract our attention to prevent before it becomes too late.
Particular roads notable so far are those around the city centre’s round-about, Nyabugogo, Kinamba, Gisimenti and the worst hit is Rwandex-Sonatube-Kicukiro Centre roads. These roads are usually packed with a stretch of motor vehicles during evening hours at almost zero speed.
The situation gets worse as the sun sets, and was it not for the traffic police officers, the jam may even stretch to late hours of the night.
Meanwhile, traffic congestion is a gridlock that has a tremendous impact on business, careers, personal life and even safety. First of all, it reduces mobility, which is a very important factor in everyday life.
It is stressful, causes those unlucky enough to get stuck in it to come later than planned to their destinations, and makes it take longer to get to places.
This may result in late arrival for employment, meetings, education, and loss of business opportunities, among others. The traffic jams are much more than an annoyance. They have very real economic, environmental and public health consequences.
Environment experts also say traffic jams increase air pollution and carbon deoxidize emission which may contribute to global warming, owing to the increased idling and acceleration.
Increased fuel use may also cause a rise in fuel cost, notwithstanding, wear and tear due to frequent breaking leading to more frequent repairs and replacement.
Any traffic jam will hurt more in our roads since we have no specialised lanes for emergency vehicles. Ambulances and fire engines can often find themselves sandwiched between other tens of motorists who desire to pave way but practically have no possibility to do so.
In a nutshell, there are thousands of inconveniences and loses from traffic congestion which makes it a bad phenomenon of any city.
Controlling traffic congestion, therefore, requires a collective effort from both the government and the citizens. In the first place, it can be stated that there is an increasing rate at which people acquire new vehicles.
It is always said that the first thing a person thinks of having gained a stable employment is acquiring a car to drive to and from their place of work every day even when the place of work and residential area are just a kilometer apart!
Again, what is the essence of driving to work if there is reliable public transport between the two points? In developed countries most of the civil servants and private sector workers, including the senior most, use public transport instead of their personal cars during weekdays. In the same way, to control our rising traffic congestion, there is still need to sensitise our people on this or using group rides.
In other places people having the same or nearby work stations or residing in the neighbourhood agree on riding on in friend’s car on a given day. This saves them the cost and keeps roads from congestion.
It may also be observed that a family does not need to have the father, mother and children having all their cars separately riding to work or to business, one car can serve in order to decongest the roads.
Most people familiar with traffic congestion would agree that it is the scourge of every motorist’s life behind the wheel in countries where it is already a serious menace. It is a problem born of growth and development but it is also the same growth and development that must work to ease traffic congestion.
For instance, smart connectivity and expansion of most frequently used roads should take a centre stage. This, coupled with a concerted effort of all of us willing to reduce the number of un-necessary wheels on our roads, will effectively ensure that we kick the congestion out of our roads.
After all, we should desist from having our drivers endure an exasperating stop-and-go journey, a phenomenon common to our East African cities.