March 17, 2021

Kisumu Puts Pedestrians First

Kisumu is a port city situated on the shores of Lake Victoria and is Kenya’s third largest urban settlement with a population slightly over 600,000. Kisumu is growing in its strategic importance by facilitating the trade of goods among Kenya and its neighbors: Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda. This city, being the commercial, administrative, and educational hub of Kenya’s western region is also home to several centers of higher learning, banks, agriculture, and oil refining. Due to its strategic importance, the national government has focused on expanding road and other transportation infrastructure in Kisumu. However, there is an urgent need to recalibrate these investments so that they can benefit all road users.

To ensure equitable mobility, the city of Kisumu recently launched the ambitious Kisumu Sustainable Mobility Plan with technical support from ITDP and UN-Habitat.

In Kisumu, 53 percent of daily trips are by foot, 4 percent by bicycle, 13 percent by matatu, 3 percent by tuk tuk, 13 percent by boda boda, 6 percent by motorcycle, and 6 percent by car.

Despite the high reliance on non-motorized transport, streets and infrastructure are designed for motorized transport. This 10-year roadmap not only acknowledges the gaps in current and upcoming infrastructure projects but also offers safe, accessible, sustainable, and equitable alternatives.

Kisumu has already begun implementing best practice designs that improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists in line with the Kisumu Sustainable Mobility Plan. In 2019, under the World Bank-financed Kenya Urban Support Program, the city launched the  Kisumu Triangle project. This included the reconstruction of 1.5 kilometers of walkways along Oginga Odinga Street, Ang’awa Avenue, and Jomo Kenyatta Highway. These streets comprise what is called the “Kisumu Triangle” and are major thoroughfares in the central business district. The project included storm water drainage improvements, installation of utility ducts, installation of solar street lights, and construction of public toilets, all features necessary for a comfortable and safe pedestrian environment. One important safety feature was added: tabletop pedestrian crossings. These raised crosswalks prioritize pedestrians and discourage speeding from cars, providing safe, universally accessible crossing points for pedestrians. Phase Two is already underway: construction of the 8 kilometers of improvements are underway along roads throughout the Central Business District.

Speaking during the launch of the Kisumu Sustainable Mobility Plan and the inaugural Kisumu Car-Free Day, the Kisumu Governor, Professor Anyang Nyong’o, reiterated that his administration is keen on ensuring equitable allocation of street space. “Considering that the majority of residents visiting the CBD [central business district] are pedestrians and cyclists, we want them to experience improved accessibility and convenience as they go about their business,” he explained.

Kisumu City Manager Abala Wanga also explained that the city will educate and advocate for the benefits of non-motorized transport by hosting additional car-free days and implementing additional NMT initiatives in Phase Two. He noted that the city is working on revamping parking regulations in a bid to transform the central business district into a walking and shopping friendly space. The Mobility Plan recommends time-based charges for on-street parking, a reduction of government-subsidies for parking, and maximum parking standards in new private developments to control the supply of parking, especially in areas with good access to public transport, thereby encouraging a shift toward the use of public transport, walking, and cycling.

ITDP board member Eng. Meshack Kidenda also noted that the Kisumu Sustainable Mobility Plan incorporates the development of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, which is critical for a city experiencing rapid growth. Currently, there is no formalized public transit system but rather a series of matatus and shared tuk-tuks,  or paratransit vehicles, which carry as many as 4,500 passengers per hour in each direction on the busiest corridor, Kenyatta Highway. While these modes provide basic access for medium and long-distance trips, they experience several challenges including overcrowding and unsafe driving. These challenges stem directly from the current business model which ties the drivers’ income directly to the number of passengers carried, which disincentives safe driving or appropriate passenger load. There are no shelters or terminal facilities at the moment.

The Kisumu Sustainable Mobility plan envisions a high-quality, cost-effective, and user-friendly public transport system, integrated with accessible pedestrian and cycling networks to enhance mobility and access for all residents. Funding will be critical in making these improvements and integrating these modes. With the commitment from the city of Kisumu as well as the ongoing improvements, progress is being made.

Download the Kisumu Sustainable Mobility Plan here.


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