Cities encourage cycling and walking as the climate crisis looms

Every morning every morning in Addis Ababa, the bustling capital of Ethiopia the exact scene unfolds.

When the sun rises, hundreds of commuters compete to get on minibusses that are public. Some take the light rail line of the city, which is the first of this type in Africa. It is notable that bicycles are not present, as cyclists aren’t often seen on these streets.

Ephrem Bekele Woldeyesus hopes to make a difference in this. The 34-year-old was the co-founder of an organization for community members, Along the Way, that is aiming to promote cycling as a sport throughout the capital as well as reducing the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for this climate catastrophe.

“It’s good for the environment and people’s health,” Woldeyesus stated about cycling. “But here, many people think that it’s unsafe. There are way too many cars.”

Woldeyesus is part of an increasing number of politicians and campaigners who wish to make walking and cycling more secure in the cities of Africa where roads are known to be dangerous. They believe this will cause more people to take up active mobility, which will reduce gridlock and help in tackling a global climate crisis that is currently creating chaos across this continent that has 1.3 billion people.

“Walking and cycling has huge benefits for people and the planet, improving health, reducing our carbon footprint and improving air quality.”


The transport system for urbanization will form the main focus on the agenda of Africa Climate Week 2023 which will take place between 4 and 8 September at Nairobi, Kenya. It is an annual conference that features decision-makers from across the continent will help African states tackle the climate crisis in reducing carbon dioxide emissions. However, the region has been an important least players in the fight against climate change.

In a variety of aspects, Ethiopia is now a model for the environmental benefits for active travel. The country, with the help of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has embarked on a major effort to encourage citizens to continue walking and take up cycling while staying clear of smoke-spreading vehicles.

Countries like Rwanda are pushing to make their roads safer, introducing a slate of measures to protect pedestrians and cyclists. Photo: Andalou Agency via AFP/Cyril Ndegeya

The main focus of the campaign is the nation’s Non-Motorized Transport Strategy. In its first year, it establishes a series of 10-year targets, which include the creation of three kilometers of footpaths and 2km of bike routes for every 10,000 inhabitants. The plan also aims to reduce the amount of kilometers traveled by motor vehicles of private use to levels by 2020 and to reduce fatalities for cyclists and pedestrians by 80 percent, which is below the 2019 level.

It is regarded as crucial to motivating people to take the two-wheeler plunge.

Alongside the policy of active mobility, Ethiopia has also launched transportation and road safety plans as well as forming a partnership with the private sector in order to improve the infrastructure for cycling and walking.

“Cycling is beneficial because it is environmentally friendly, economical and has health benefits,” said Fetiya Dedegeba, Deputy Executive Director of the Ethiopian Road Safety and Insurance Fund.

A pan-African movement

The movement to promote active mobility is expanding across Africa. In Nairobi, all new roads are constructed with a walkway and bicycle track. Twenty percent of the Nairobi city’s transport budget is devoted for active transportation, which is a goal UNEP has helped to push.

Rwanda has established fortnightly car-free days, which allow roads to be handed over to joggers, walkers, cyclists, and roller skaters. Guraride is an application that lets users hire bikes and electric powered two-wheelers has also been launched.

Additionally, the nation, together with UNEP and UNEP, has developed the national transportation policy, which calls for every new road to be constructed with traffic-calming measures and sufficient sidewalks, which makes it safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

In the majority of Africa, however, the roads remain dangerous. Africa is the home of 20 percent of road-related deaths, even though it has only 3 percent of all registered vehicles in the world. On average, more than 260 cyclists and 260 pedestrians die in Africa each day. This is due mainly to the absence of infrastructure as well as poor urban planning, and unsafe driving.

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