Harare Bike Day shines light on need for cleaner travel

…as cyclists take over streets to promote green travel  

Moses Ziyambi

Dozens of cyclists rode over the streets of Harare last Saturday to call for policies that will promote the capital as a cycling city which moves with the times towards cleaner travel habits.

The day was organised by concerned stakeholders who lament the heavy presence of motorised vehicles on the streets, a situation which often results in traffic chokeholds, high levels of noise as well as the resultant air pollution.

At least four roads including Sam Nujoma and Jason Moyo were closed to give participants safe passage on streets that are ordinarily not friendly and at worst dangerous for cyclists.

The event was organised by many stakeholders including Chova, Road Safe Zimbabwe, Triathlon Zimbabwe and Buffalo Bicycles but with support from the German development agency GIZ and the Embassy of the Netherlands.

“Cycling is deeply rooted in Dutch culture and the Netherlands is pleased to be part of this initiative which sets the pace for a cleaner Harare which is friendly to cycling,” said Harry Davis, a policy officer at the embassy who stood in for Deputy Head of Mission Eva van Woersem.

The German municipality of Munich, which has a twinning agreement with City of Harare, and whose public transportation is 23 percent cycling-based, also supported the event.

Addressing the same gathering, Harare Mayor Jacob Mafume said Harare pledged to premise the approval of new development plans on the incorporation of cycle tracks.

“Harare has a remarkable cycling history but the culture died down due to neglect of key infrastructure and failure to expand that infrastructure. Going forward, we will only approve development plans that have incorporate cycle tracks.

“The city is heavily congested, and cycling within the city can solve many transportation problems we have. Old cycling tracks have to be revived,” said Mafume.

The previous day, a roundtable discussion was held as a prelude to the main event, with stakeholders sharing ideas on what needed to be done to encourage residents of the city to adopt cycling as an integral part of their daily travel routines.

“Cycling is good not only for individual health but for the environment too because less carbon emissions occur when more people leave their cars at home and cycle to and from work.

“We need to develop and adopt a non-motorized transportation strategy which will make our roads safer,” said Jenna Hutchings, an avid cyclist who played an instrumental role organising the event.

She said in line with such Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as 11 and 13, it was critical to influence policy change so that roads can be built for the people and not for cars.

SDG 11 addresses Sustainable Cities and Communities, while 13 talks about the need for Climate Action.