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The City of Harare Hosted “The Future of Cycling in Harare” Roundtable Meeting As Part Of Harare Bike Day

According to the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) Making the Economic Case for Cycling 2022 Report, the total cost for the purchase, operations, maintenance, fuel, and insurance for a bicycle adds up to about $3.00 per 100 km traveled. A private car is 6 times more expensive, at approximately $18.00 per 100 km. The ITDP is a global organization that uses its technical expertise, direct advocacy, and policy guidance in programs aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change, improve air quality, and support prosperous, sustainable, and equitable cities.

The report emphasizes the fact that bicycles are already widely available in most areas around the world and therefore present an immediate solution to address several issues across the globe, such as congestion cost savings and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by cutting down on car trips. The infrastructure to support cycling can also be set up very quickly and at a much lower cost than the infrastructure required for an ever expanding fleet of larger vehicles.

Given the current demand and supply constraints for new electric vehicles in the major markets for larger vehicles, the supply of affordable zero emission vehicles in large quantities in Africa could be a key challenge as the major OEMs would naturally prioritize the larger traditional markets over markets in Africa that generally have low motorization rates. The large investments needed for the large rollout of programs supporting electric vehicle charging networks, especially when it comes to Level 3 charging, could also mean that an accelerated rollout of such infrastructure may take quite some time. The acceleration of the adoption of cycling in urban centers can therefore aid the reduction of harmful emissions that put human health at risk. The increased use of bicycles will help slow down the negative impacts of climate change in more parts of the world much faster than the most ambitious ramp-up of supply of larger vehicles given the previously mentioned supply constraints.

Electric bicycles can be adequate for many people’s daily needs if the right conditions and supporting infrastructure were available. For example, the average commuting distance in Harare is only 15 km, according to the CPCS Transcom International Limited’s Zimbabwe National Transport Master Plan, Final Report (2017). The current transport chaos in Zimbabwe’s major cities as a result of lack of adequate mass transit options such as mini-bus taxis (known locally as Kombis), the limited number of buses, as well as the limited routes served by the current fleet of high capacity buses, presents a major opportunity for new forms of transport solutions.

The current wave of sky rocketing fuel costs also mean that there has never been a better time for commuters in Harare to adopt cycling. However, key concerns remain. These include:

  • Very few dedicated cycle paths and supporting infrastructure
  • The aggressive and unaccommodating driving style of drivers of larger vehicles which creates an intimidating atmosphere for cyclists
  • Safety during night time due to lack of adequate street lighting

The ITDP report also notes that a new car costs more than the average annual household income in most parts of the world, while bicycles and even electric bicycles (e-bikes) cost less than 6% of annual income to purchase. This means that it should be much easier for people to switch to cycling than to purchase their first car or even to upgrade from their current. We just need to make cycling more fashionable and also provide an environment that makes people feel that it is safe for them to cycle.

Another key takeaway from the report is that although sizable investments would be required to deliver the physical infrastructure to make cycling and walking safer and more attractive to more people, mass adoption of cycling would generate significant cost savings and returns as a result of improved health outcomes, as well as drive local economic development. Bicycle-related industries generate employment creation opportunities in bicycle and parts manufacturing & retail including sales, repair, and other associated services including shared micromobility programs and bicycle tourism.

A well-coordinated approach that includes a wide cross section of stakeholders including national, provincial, local governments and city councils, development finance institutions, NGOs & donor agencies, and the broader private sector would be required to realize the full potential of the benefits that can be derived from mass adoption of cycling. To kickstart this conversation in Harare, Zimbabwe, a roundtable meeting under the theme “The Future of Cycling in Harare” was organized as part of the program for Harare Bike Day last month by the City of Harare.

The roundtable meeting was organized in conjunction with various stakeholders who have been promoting cycling in the city. These included:

  • Bikes4Zim
  • INZI
  • Asambe
  • World Bicycle Relief
  • Buffalo Bicycles
  • JM Busha54
  • Road Safe Zimbabwe
  • Clean&Green
  • Chovha
  • City of Munich (Landeshauptstadt München)
  • German development agency GIZ
  • The Netherlands Embassy

Several key stakeholders were also present at the roundtable. These included Kuva, Safeguard, and several other tech companies. The roundtable meeting was well attended by key organizations in advertising, businesses reliant on bicycles, environment-focused businesses, finance, health, logistics, mapping, and smart technology, as well as citizens of Harare who are passionate about cycling.

The roundtable meeting was held in the Chambers room at Harare City Council’s Town House. The meeting was moderated by Judith Mujegu, Harare City’s acting City Planner. One of the presenters, Jenna Hutchings, summed up some of the key benefits of switching to cycling, “Cycling is critical for physical health,  mental health and vitality by providing regular exercise and time to oneself (whilst saving the planet)”.

Jenna Hutchings, a citizen of Harare, in her presentation titled  “Co-creation of a Sustainable Harare,” focused on the importance of bicycles around an equitable transport system, and a circular economy, where the bicycle is the perfect tool to directly and indirectly target Sustainable Development Goals. Protection of the natural environment should be addressed in tandem and this can be achieved by mapping existing routes, while at the same time noting vulnerable ecosystems to be incorporated into the design of the extended active mobility routes with a strengthened public transportation system.

Sam Nyaude of Road Safe Zimbabwe Trust gave a presentation on the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety, emphasizing that cycling infrastructure has been overlooked by city planning in our larger cities where routes are prioritized for cars, not people. This focus has made it dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians because roads become less accessible for these users. The feedback from all attendees was positive, with a resounding will to change the status quo through a coordinated approach.

Some of the other notable takeaways were:

  • The City of Harare wants to create a cycling masterplan for the city.
  • The City has a collaboration with the City of Munich.
  • Pilots to consider students at the University of Zimbabwe and Mt Pleasant High School, both in the Mt Pleasant area of Harare.
  • Critical need to map potential routes for cycle lanes and paths. One low-hanging fruit is to zone in on where large groups of people are already carving out paths through grasslands and other areas, showing where the demand is.

Getting the conversation going is always a good start. It’s good to see that some pilot projects are already being explored. I am a huge fan of micromobility and will keep following these developments closely.

 
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Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai has been fascinated with batteries since he was in primary school. As part of his High School Physics class he had to choose an elective course. He picked the renewable energy course and he has been hooked ever since. At university he continued to explore materials with applications in the energy space and ending up doing a PhD involving the study of radiation damage in High Temperature Gas Cooled Nuclear Reactors. He has since transitioned to work in the Solar and Storage industry and his love for batteries has driven him to obsess about electric vehicles.

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