Kampala — The ongoing construction of Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) corridor on Namirembe Road has worsened the city's traffic jam, attracting a furore from motorists, who claim that the traffic diversion was not properly planned.
The city authority last November closed off Namirembe Road to pave way for construction works. Upon completion, the NMT corridor, which is supposed to cover both Namirembe Road and Luwum Street, will only be left for pedestrians and cyclists.
But since construction works commenced, there has been a hitch in the flow of traffic, leaving the city centre in non-stop traffic gridlock.
When this newspaper visited the affected roads last Friday, most motorists were struggling to manoeuvre through the bumper-to-bumper jam.
Although the city authority mapped alternative routes to divert traffic, motorists argue that the diversion has not helped because the alternative roads are narrow to carry the traffic volumes
"The heavy traffic has been caused by the fact that motorists now only have to use one road while exiting and entering the city, which is a very big challenge, unlike previously when one would exit through Namirembe and enter through Martin Road upon return. It now becomes a total mess since both motorists exiting and entering the city compete for one road," Mr Joseph Kiberu, a taxi driver, says.
Asked why motorists cannot utilise other roads such as Ssemugooma Road and Allen Road to either exit or enter the city, Mr Kiberu noted that Ssemugooma Road is usually blocked by buses exiting Kisenyi.
Namirembe corridor has at least five bus terminals and one taxi park, hence worsening traffic flow especially when buses and taxis are either exiting or entering the city. It is also one of the busiest city roads as such a traffic snarl on the route affects other adjoining roads.
Many motorists scramble for either Allen Road, Martin Road or Rashid Khamis Road.
However, our spot-check on these roads found out that while they would be the better alternative for diversion of traffic, they are overwhelmed, especially by taxis from the New Taxi Park.
We also found out that when these three roads are clogged, Kyaggwe and Nabugabo roads become affected too.
Namirembe Road stretches from Berkley (Bakuli) junction up to Mini-price Shopping Arcade at the foot of Luwum Street, which stretches through Burton and Darstur streets up to Entebbe Road, just behind Barclays Bank on Kampala Road.
The Shs3b project is being used as a pilot study to assess the efficiency of NMT in Kampala city.
The designs of Namirembe Road NMT were made with support from the UN-Habitat, United Nations Environment Project (UNEP), Goudappel Africa Goudappel Coffeng, a Dutch NGO.
Although KCCA had anticipated completion of the corridor by next month, it is likely to take longer because Namirembe Road has not been completed yet.
Kampala Metropolitan Traffic Commander, Mr Norman Musinga, and spokesperson, Ms Charles Ssembabulidde, were unavailable to explain how police is grappling with the problem or alternatives to ease traffic flow in the city centre.
The Multi-Modal Transport Master plan for Greater Kampala, a copy which we have seen, recommends the development of a comfortable, wide and safe NMT connecting all parts of Greater Kampala. Such connectivity, the report adds, shall encourage the population to walk and cycle on a daily basis.
According to the Master Plan, the optimal NMT corridor project, one implemented, shall have a combination of improved transport modals including segregated and wee-marked paths for cyclists and pedestrians hence attracting 100,000 daily cyclists and pedestrians.
The Master Plan further states that walking currently accounts for 46% of the trips above 1 Km in the Greater Kampala while cycling accounts for only 2 per cent.
For instance, the Master Plan states that over 2.5 million non-motorised transport trips are performed daily in the metropolitan area and that the number of trips is expected to increase to a staggering eight million walking-cycling trips daily by the year 2040.
The spokesperson of Traffic Police, Mr Charles Ssembabulidde, in a telephone interview yesterday acknowledged the traffic mess at Namirembe Road but attributed it to the fact that most motorists are not aware of the alternative diversion routes.
"I think what must be done is sensitisation because most motorists aren't aware about the ongoing works on Namirembe Road and apparently when they reach there, they become stuck yet there are other alternative routes which they could use. When motorists embrace the changes, traffic jam on that corridor will be mitigated," he said.
Efforts to speak to KCCA on how they intend to mitigate the problem were futile.
The design of the corridor is comprised of turnoffs, gardens, and lanes for both cyclists and pedestrians.
This means that while motorists will be restricted from using Namirembe Road or Luwum Street, they can still access other city roads through intersections that are part of the NMT project.
For instance, motorists from Burton and Dastur Streets can drive through the NMT intersections on Luwum Street to either join Wilson Road or join Kampala Road.
According to the designs, a monument in honour of the late Archbishop Janani Luwum will be erected at the round-about where Wilson Road starts off Burton and William Streets, just next to Mapeera House.
The late Archbishop Luwum was killed on the orders of President Idi Amin on February 17,1977