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Jan 31, 2019 | Kenya

Matatu Anger Forces Kenya to Abandon Nairobi Car-Free Project.

By William Niba - RFI
Quartz Africa
Quartz Africa

Kenya shelves Nairobi car-free days project beacuse of poor preparation.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia who had planned to unveil the first phase of the pilot project on February 1, reportedly wrote to stakeholders late Wednesday informing them of his decision to postpone its launch.

The Daily Nation newspaper had published a front-page splash on the landmark reform designating Wednesday's and Saturday's as car-free days in the business district of Nairobi.

Open air business

The newspaper quotes Nairobi authorities as saying that open air markets were projected to generate 39 million Shillings per day (€340,000] once it was operational.

According to the publication, despite the enthusiasm which greeted the freeing of space in central Nairobi, growing numbers of Kenyans expressed concern that the project was only likely to aggravate chronic traffic jams, as well as added to the air and noise pollution in the city of 3.5 million inhabitants.

Jainde Kisero is business columnist at the Nation Media Group. He says the vehicle-free-days project falls short of what the capital city needs to get a workable public transport system.

Matatu rage

Simon Kimutai is President of the Matatu Owners Association, the powerful union of private transporters. He told RFI that while the government was finalizing plans to buy 64 buses from South Africa and 11 more trains from Spain, it still needed to provide a solid alternative for motorists during the car-free-days.

As he puts it “the idea that people were going to be riding bicycles into Nairobi while their vehicles are nowhere is laughable.

"It's a good idea, a beautiful idea, but the time hasn't gotten there because Kenya doesn't have the equipment and infrastructure to implement the reform."

He also regrets that they were never consulted about the purchase of the buses the government wants them to operate under the car-free days. He criticizes the government's decision to buy “untested buses” from South Africa instead of attracting bus assembling plants in Kenya. “We don't mind but we are cost conscious”, insists Simon Kimutai.

Late bus deliveries

Standard Digital claims that the minimal preparations for the launch of the car-free days' project have not gone unnoticed on the streets of Nairobi.

The publication relays a tweet by a Nairobi-based journalist Adrian Blomfield pointing out that the only alternative for all those who cannot take their cars into central Nairobi on car-free days is to get on one of the new buses, even though there are only 67 of them and they are not yet in the country”.

The Standard also commends advice meted out to Kenyans by another social media user to “just get an original/homegrown idea that suits their immediate and long term needs”.

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