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University of Nairobi launches ‘bike share’ to ease traffic congestion

Diana Atieno tests one of the bikes donated to students of Bar Union Secondary School in Kisumu County. The University of Nairobi is pioneering use of bikes to reduce congestion in the city. [PHOTO: COLLINS ODUOR/STANDARD]

Have you ever heard of Bike Share? Probably not. Well, this is a concept launched two weeks ago by the University of Nairobi’s Computing for Development Laboratory that seeks to improve the health of city residents as well as reduce transport costs.

Under the programme, users will borrow, ride and return a bicycle. This system is already being pioneered at the university. The project is supported by UN-Habitat.

According to the vice-chancellor Prof Peter Mbithi, the Bike Share programme seeks to use a “simple and innovative concept to solve a big problem of urban transport”. He says such innovations will go along way in helping staff and students move easily within the university.

He said the concept offers a big opportunity for social equality, public health and urban mobility – something that has not gained much traction in Africa. Currently, the programme works in a controlled campus environment and will be implemented and scaled up in phases.

The theme of this year’s Nairobi Innovation Week is “Innovating to Solve Local and Global Challenges”. Tonny Omwansa, the chairman of Nairobi Innovation Week and part of the C4DLab, said that Nairobi´s traffic challenge could easily be solved by Kenyans adapting the use of bicycles.

Stefanie Holzwarth of the UN Habitat Urban Mobility Unit is excited about the project´s success so far: “In a city, where only 18 per cent of the residents have access to private means of motorisation, safe infrastructure for non-motorised transport users is a prerequisite for peoples´ mobility and accessibility of urban opportunities.”

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The use of bicycles as a means of mobility within cities is popular in many European countries. Netherlands, for instance, has special lanes dedicated solely to bicycle riders.

It is an offence for pedestrians to use such lanes. In addition, some of the biggest parking lots near train stations are for the exclusive parking of bicycles.

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