Cities all over the world have been working hard to tackle congestion problems in their central districts. Singapore, London, and Stockholm have instituted congestion charges for cars coming into the city center, while hundreds of cities around the world are experimenting with car-free days. But one month ago, Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, declared its Central Business District a permanently car-free zone. What was once a traffic-choked stretch of roadway is now a tranquil empty space, filled only with pedestrians.
Though the closed area, along KN 4 Avenue, is now quiet and almost deserted, Alphonse Nkurunziza, Kigali’s City Engineer says this won’t last long. “It’s a matter of time, you will get to know that our reasons to introduce car-free zone in the Central Business District was a move to make Kigali one of the best cities on the continent,” Nkurunziza told The New Times. During the transition phase, pedestrians have been slow to adapt to the new car-free roads and many of them still stick to the sidewalks or look left and right before crossing the once-busy street.
Businesses along KN 4 have also had trouble adapting and some have reported a decrease in income. Nkurunziza is encouraging business owners to adapt to the new car-free zone by embracing modern forms of shopping, such as online ordering and home delivery. Artists and party-goers are reveling in their newfound empty space, setting up mini-galleries along the road and hosting parties, such as a silent disco, in the street.
The city plans to expand the car-free zone once it has completed new infrastructure for the zone, including security booths, public restrooms, and street furniture. Plans also include creating bike lanes and safe bicycle parking so that people who used to drive into the city center will be able to ride their bikes instead.
Via The New Times
Images via Kigali Today / YouTube