Share the road – prioritizing walking and cycling in Nairobi

Context of Transport Climate Action

No matter where you live or how you travel, nearly everyone begins and ends each trip as a pedestrian. In cities across Africa, the majority of citizens rely almost exclusively on walking as their primary forms of mobility. In Nairobi about 50% of the population walk or cycle as their daily primary mode of travel[1].

Since the introduction of the motor vehicle, road development has continuously pushed people onto less and less space and the norm in Africa, as in much of the rapidly urbanizing global south, is to invest in and prioritize the movement of cars to the benefit of the minority and the detriment of the majority.

The result is, for those with limited access to alternatives, daily mobility needs are met through literally life-threatening journeys (2014 road accident data from Nairobi shows that of 723 fatalities, some 507 were pedestrians)[2]. For those with other options such as driving their own car, walking and cycling are shunned, even for short distances, due to concerns for safety and convenience. As a result, use of Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) – the cleanest, most efficient and healthiest modes of transport – has been on the decline.

NMT plays a key role in low carbon transport scenarios and ultimately in climate change mitigation. In 2010, the CO2 emissions from the transport sector were about 23% of global CO2 emission levels and emissions from cars were about 41% of total transport emissions[3]. Encouraging walking and cycling can help to reverse this trend by reducing the numbers of motorized trips.


Fortunately, changes are afoot. The UNEP-led Share the Road Programme is a global program that is helping to highlight the need to share road space more equitably. The initiative was started in 2008 and was co-founded with the FIA Foundation. It brings together the environment and safety agendas in the context of urban transport in the developing world where the majority of people – those moving by foot or bicycle – are disadvantaged on the road. The overall goal is to catalyse policies in government and donor agencies for systematic investments in walking and cycling road infrastructure, linked with public transport systems.

African governments are realizing how important it is to support walking and cycling; in Nairobi, Kenya the City County government have developed an NMT Policy to catalyst the creation of safe, cohesive and comfortable network of footpaths, cycling lanes and tracks, green areas, and other support amenities. It will also spearhead the introduction of laws and regulations to ensure that NMT facilities and areas are prioritized. The County also went a step further by committing 20% percent of all road construction funds from 2015 onwards to be allocated to NMT infrastructure and facilities. This is the first time that such as significant and clear percentage of spending has been allocated to improving NMT infrastructure both in Nairobi and in Kenya.

Photo shows the partners with representatives of Nairobi City County Government, UNEP Share the Road Program and the Kenyan Alliance of Residence Associations.


The UNEP Share the Road Programme (StR) and Kenyan Alliance of Residence Associations (KARA) supported the Nairobi City County government in facilitating a series of stakeholder consultation sessions over a four month period, including a specific workshop for Civil Society representatives. These stakeholder sessions explored the NMT realities for people walking and cycling in Nairobi and the possible solutions. The sessions were complimented by a social media campaign to take on board views of those not attending the face-to-face sessions. The policy was developed by a lead consultant with a continuous review cycle by key stakeholders and an independent international review panel.

The policy was launched on 17 March 2015 in Nairobi and was attended by a variety of stakeholders including UNEP, National and County Government and Civil Society. The launch was hosted by Mr. Mohamed Abdullahi, County Executive – Roads, Public Works & Transport, on behalf of Dr. Evans Kidero, Governor of Nairobi City County. The Government committed 20 percent of all road construction spending towards NMT infrastructure and is now planning to build on the policy by following up with on-ground infrastructure as well as exploring how to upscale and finance NMT at a national level. The development of this policy was supported by the FIA foundation for the Automobile and Society and The Department for International Development (DFID).

Since the launch of policy, progress has already been made. The Nairobi City County Government confirmed at a workshop held in November 2015 that they have ring fenced 18.2% of their annual road construction budget (558 million Kenyan Shillings) for NMT infrastructure and facilities – a great step towards their 20% target. The Ministry of transport also re-affirmed the mandatory inclusion of NMT facilities for all new road construction and there was a recommendation to upscale the NMT policy to a national level, a suggestion now being taken into consideration by the Kenyan Ministry of Transport.


Investing in NMT infrastructure has major benefits – as a contributor to combatting climate change, improving road safety, reducing congestion and providing access to basic services.

In the longer term it is expected the implementation of this policy will play a key role in addressing climate change. 2011 data for Kenya from the World Bank Group shows total CO2 emissions of 13, 568 million metric tonnes[4]; 39% of which are from the transport sector (5, 291, 520 metric tonnes). As part of the recent piloting of an NMT cost benefit analysis tool in Nairobi by the University of Cape Town – they demonstrated that a move to a city-wide network of NMT infrastructure in Nairobi could potentially result in a reduction of over 2 million metric tonnes of C02 emissions in a fifteen year period. A host of other benefits were also identified including the potential for over 400 years of travel time to be saved and over 8000 premature deaths to be prevented.

Potential for scaling up

The UNEP StR programme has also previously supported the Ministry of Transport for Uganda to launch a national NMT policy and is now providing guidance to Governments in West Africa to provide similar support in 2016, as well as exploring opportunities to expand support to the regions of Asia and Latin America in the future.

Development of an NMT policy at a national or local government level is a complex and complicated process that requires a host of challenges to be considered and overcome in order to make the policy a reality including lack of financing, institutional complexities, etc. The project in Nairobi has demonstrated that NMT policy development is one of the enabling conditions necessary to redress the investment challenges and can act as a catalyst for provision of safe infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists with long term ‘triple wins’ benefits for the environment, safety and accessibility. Safe walking and cycling infrastructure can encourage a modal shift from motorized transportation and consequently reduce emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases. It also protects vulnerable road users from high-speed motor traffic, and increases affordable access to vital services and employment.