Nairobi’s infrastructure lacking as Kenyans turn to bikes under Covid

Nairobi, Jul 31 (efe-epa).- Cycling enthusiasts in the Kenyan capital Nairobi are calling for improved infrastructure in urban areas as people increasingly turn to the humble bicycle as a means of keeping fit amid coronavirus restrictions or simply as an alternative to public transport.

Githinji, who owns a bicycle repair shop in Nairobi, says that while most people in his area use bicycles as a cheaper alternative to public transport, the systems in place in the city do not provide a safe environment for cyclists.

In April, his nephew was killed in a road traffic accident while riding a bicycle.

“We don’t have lanes for riding bicycles,” he says.

According to a World Health Organization report in 2018, some 13,463 Kenyans died on the roads in the space of a year.

“The people who live here, most are low-income, so most use bicycles.

“People are not using public transport. They are using other means.”

The United Nations Environment Programme championed the mode of transport as a way to lift people out of poverty in a report to mark the occasion of World Bicycle Day early last month.

“In many countries, owning a bicycle has an even more significant impact for families, lifting them out of poverty, while providing them with improved access to quality education, jobs, markets, and community activities when public transportation is unavailable,” Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, president of the UN General Assembly, said at the time.

The UN department has encouraged cities around the world to accommodate cycling in their infrastructure planning.

It said that it was not only environmentally-friendly and a healthy activity, but that it was largely “pandemic-proof” given the inherent social distancing involved in the sport.

David Ndatha, who cycles competitively and for fun, says he has noticed more and more people hop on the saddle after the Kenyan government rolled out its lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“You see so many people on bikes nowadays, people commuting to work, people just riding for fitness and all that and also just maybe as a hobby, so the trend is upwards,” he says.

“When Covid happened it helped many people get onto their bicycles.”

As well as taking part in cycling competitions, Ndatha commutes to work by bicycle.

“I usually find my bike more efficient, time-saving, it also helps me keep fit,” he adds.

Ndatha said the lack of infrastructure was one the the main challenges facing cyclists in Nairobi, the birthplace of four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome.

“That’s what is keeping people away from bicycles,” he says, adding that there are no links between residential areas and workplaces and that office buildings did not have a place to freshen up after a commute.

Peter Keji aka Bongo Mathao, who first developed an interest in bikes as a commuter, also noticed an uptick of bicycle users during the pandemic as people used it as a form of working out.

“When you are cycling, you can cover more mileage and you can see more interesting things on your bike. When you run, you get tired and you stop, but when you are on your bike you can just continue going and going,” he says.

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