The Harare City Council (HCC) says it is embarking on a highly ambitious project which will see the launch of a program meant to encourage people to cycle to work as part of the council’s mandate to decongest the central business district as well as promote health awareness.
The HCC is facing grave challenges which inter alia include an increase in population and the number of motor vehicles, a deteriorating transport infrastructure, severe congestion, an inefficient public transport and a high rate of accidents.
All these snags have implications on achieving sustainable transport and hence the need to raise the question of the requirements of achieving sustainable transport for the city.
The city ranks among the most congested cities in Africa where uncontrolled traffic poses a great threat to the would-be cyclists.
Added to that, the city does not have cycle tracks and besides speeding pirate taxis to vehicles hooting loudly amid curses and insults, Harare traffic seems like the worst in the world.
However, the council says the cycle track pilot project will be launched this weekend at the annual JM Busha 54Races Half Marathon.
HCC’s Acting Chief Traffic and Transportation Planner, Judith Mujegu told 263Chat that the council will use the annual sporting event to gauge the state of preparedness of the program which they are working together with the City of Munich in German and through the Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative.
She said the end goal to the initiative would be creating a balance in the public system.
“We want to create a balanced public transport system. If you look in Africa, a lot of people use cars and buses to go to work and into the CBD but that ends up creating large volumes of traffic which again pose a danger to pedestrians,” she said.
However, Mujegu said there is a need to start improving the public transport system in the CBD before the project can be rolled into action.
“We are initially launching this project in Mount Pleasant because there is less traffic and we are targeting young people. We want to do this in a less congested area before moving into the highly congested city,” she said.
For this to happen, Mujegu added, there need to be partnerships between the government and the private sector to avail more buses which will bring sanity to the city.
“Without giving you timelines, I think we need to sort out our public transport system first. We are also relying on the government to come on board. It’s a good thing that they are providing new buses.
“But we need more than 1500 buses in Harare and the moment we get these, we should be able to roll out the full program. We are working with the ministry of transport to have cycle tracks in the CBD because if you look at other countries, you will realise we are lagging behind,” she said.
The government recently announced that it acquired more than 500 buses overseas which will likely help ease traffic woes and maybe enable the launch of the ambitious project.
Malfunctioning traffic signals are also an external factor which normally contributes to higher levels of congestion and pollution in the city.
This does not allow traffic to flow smoothly and such delays affect the economy through loss of production.
Clearly, infrastructure improvement is a necessary condition of sustainable urban transport especially for Harare which is aiming to achieve a world-class city status by 2025.