6 February 2013

Rwanda: Of Kigali's Grand Plans to Control Traffic

Owning a car in Kigali these days is no longer a dream.

Some buildings are overwhelmed by the number of motorists in search of parking during the day. The New Times/ John Mbanda.

Statistics from the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) indicate that in March, 2011, there were 50,661 registered vehicles and close to 40,000 motorcycles in the country. In September, 2011, there were 48,733 vehicles.

The most recent RRA estimates indicate that there are 54,942 motorcycles and 59,564 motor vehicles in the country of 11 million people.

In the first week of June, 2012, statistics of registered vehicles in different categories - ranging from buses, trucks to tricycles and motorcycles totalled 114,506.

According to Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Agency (RURA) statistics dating from September 2012, Rwanda has got 643 public transport cars used by 34 registered companies for transportation of persons.

This sharp rise in the number of vehicles owned is aided by several initiatives from both informal and formal sector such as loans from banks like 'Igurire Iyawe' (drive your own car) that are attracting more Kigali residents to drive their dream cars.

But planning for infrastructure to accommodate these vehicles calls for greater attention. With limited parking in the city and narrow roads, owning a car has become a nightmare for some motorists.

Richard Karenzi, a driver from Kisimenti, believes the increase in the number of cars has led to a sharp rise in the number of accidents on the roads.

However, the overall concern of this increase in the number of cars is the early morning and evening jam around the city.

"Most motorists are now losing about Rwf200,000 every month, because the time used to travel from Kisementi to Downtown has increased from 20 minutes to 40 minutes, during the peak hours," said Karenzi.

The peak hours are the period between 7- 8.30am and 4.30-8pm everyday. The most affected roads are Nyabugogo-City Center, Sonatube-Rwandex-Giporoso, Chez Lando-Gishushu and Kimicanga -Sopetrad.

Fuel prices have also been affected.

But Reuben Ahimbisibwe, the Director of Infrastructure at Kigali, believes all this chaos will be a thing of the past when they acquire money to conduct a survey on the actual number of the cars in the city.

This, according to Ahimbisibwe, will help the city plan better in widening some of the existing roads and creating alternative roads.

"By next year, we will have widened the roads that are most affected by traffic jams. For example, we will create two more lanes on the Muhima-Nyabugogo road. At junctions, such as Sonatubes, Gishushu and Giporoso, we will build flyovers," he said.

The plan, he said, also includes adding more alternative roads, such as the Rwanda Development Board - control technique road.

"Such by passes around the city centre will help us get rid of many cars on the main road," adds Jean Marie Vianney Ndushabandi, the Traffic and Road Safety spokesperson in the Rwanda National Police.

Creating single lanes will also help decongest the city, although Ahisimbiwe was not precise on which roads will be affected. Neither the time frame to achieve these goals.

This idea was welcomed by traders and motorists alike.

Stephen Barimenshi, a trader from city centre offered that City Centre-Giporoso and City Centre-Kisimenti roads should be made one-way to Kigali during peak hours in the morning and evening.

But another driver who spoke on condition of anonymity said the problem is not the number of cars but reckless drivers who cause jam.

"We have lesser cars than there are in Nairobi and Kampala. This problem of jams and congestion can only be solved if we learn how to drive properly," he said.

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