The GGGI Rwanda team organized two stakeholder consultations in two of Rwanda’s rapidly urbanizing secondary cities, Musanze and Rubavu. The consultation sessions were organized to discuss the challenges, limitations and opportunities of developing a public bicycle sharing (PBS) system. Participants at the stakeholders consultations included representatives from local and national government entities, the private sector, bicycle taxi operators, major hotels and tourist destinations, and universities. The aim of the workshop was to include various stakeholders who would be responsible for the ownership, operation, use and design of the system as well as to present the results of the on-site assessment to the local government.
Public Bicycle Sharing (PBS) in Secondary Cities
According to the National Roadmap for Green Secondary City Development, the urban population of Musanze is expected to increase by more than double from 102,082 (2012 estimate) to 236,638 in 2020 with an urban population growth rate at 1.8%. In Rubavu, the urban population was estimated 149,209 in 2012 and is expected to increase to 421,124 in 2020 with an urban population growth rate of 5%. Both cities have developed strategies to capitalize on the anticipated growth of the urban population while preserving natural resources and limiting the impact of urbanization on the environment.
The Inventory of Sources of Air Pollution in Rwanda: Determination of Future Trends and Development of National Air Quality Control Strategy by the Rwanda Environment Management Agency (REMA) found that the biggest contributor to poor air quality in urban areas was emissions from motor vehicles. According to the Statistical Yearbook 2017 published by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, the number of vehicles registered in Rwanda increased from 166,893 to 183,703 by 2016. With increased personally owned vehicles, the resultant emissions in urban centers has also increased significantly. Air pollution is linked to an estimated 700,000 to 1,000,000 deaths per year in Africa and outdoor air pollution results in an estimated economic cost of 215 billion USD. Recent research has found that poor air quality is responsible for one in five infant deaths in sub-Saharan Africa and that “small improvements in air quality could be one of the most effective interventions to curb infant mortality rates.” Even during car free day in Kigali, air pollution is reduced by approximately 56%. By investing in PBS systems and NMT infrastructure, cities are able to curb air pollution from cutting emissions and increasing opportunities for sustainable transport.
The PBS project was initiated to address the increasing air pollution from personally owned vehicles and motorcycles and the demand on transportation services. The stakeholders’ consultations were designed to gather the input from participants and included a participatory mapping session in each city to identify key areas for potential docking station and heavily used routes. Incorporating a PBS system in either city, would also need to be coupled with corresponding infrastructure to maximize the use and concomitant benefits to the city and to users. “There is a need to collaborate with urban planners and agencies responsible for the master plans. We need to work together with RTDA and RHA in reviewing the masterplan of Musanze to incorporate cycling needs into medium and long-term planning for infrastructure development,” added Peter Mugabo, RTDA Transport Networking & Planning Senior Engineer.
During the consultation, the Mayor of the District of Rubavu, Gilbert Habyarimana noted that, “For Rubavu, we consider this PBS project as a unique opportunity to interest people to come to the city, to facilitate residents in their travel to work and as an attraction for visitors.” In Musanze District, the Vice Mayor in charge of Economic Development, Augustin Ndabereye during his welcoming remarks, commended the PBS proposal in Musanze District and described it as “A system that will socially impact and boost the transportation sector bringing low, middle and high-income residents to use the same platform as well as tourists.” He also added that, “Since Musanze is developing as an excellent center for tourism, the PBS system will be one of the development programs that the District will use to pledge its contribution towards reducing GHG emissions and facilitating local citizens to stay healthy while reaching their day-to-day destinations.”
Safeguards for Key Stakeholders
A key consideration for the implementation of the project would be how such a system would affect the livelihoods of bicycle taxi operators. In a survey of bicycle taxis conducted in both cities, the majority of operators were between 25-30 years old, owned only one bicycle and was the head of household. The majority did not have an alternative source of income. If they did, they used agriculture and animal farming to supplement their income. They also reported making over 30 trips per day, oftentimes circulating through main pick-up areas to attract new customers. This was corroborated by a break-down of types of bicycles and modes of traffic assessed through manual traffic counting at survey points.
During the full-day session in both cities, stakeholders suggested steps to ensure equitable involvement of bicycle taxi operators and women users. “There is an opportunity to involve the bicycle cooperatives when registering users for the PBS system and in tracking the usage of the bicycles. The cooperatives know the community best and would be able to identify misuse of the bicycles when and if it occurs.” ARCC Blaise Jabo, Tourism Coordinator of the Africa Rising Cycling Center (ARCC). Stakeholders also raised the issue of increasing participation of women to make the system more inclusive. “There is a need for women to have a place to learn bicycle riding. We could work to introduce cycling competitions in schools to promote cycling,” stated Blandine Nyiramahirwe, Coordinator of the National Women’s Council (NWC).
The stakeholders consultations included participatory mapping sessions where groups were formed to identify the key junctions of major cycling routes and to suggest areas for docking stations. These included university campuses, popular tourism sites, local government offices, markets and areas of intersection with other modes of transport such as bus station drop-off points.
The next phase of the project will be a study tour of PBS systems in Nairobi, Kenya and a workshop featuring PBS operators and NMT specialists from African cities from Kampala, Uganda; Cairo, Egypt; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Lagos, Nigeria and Nairobi, Kenya. The workshop will take place on October 8-11 and sponsor 12 policymakers, urban planners and government officials from Rwanda to share challenges, lessons learned and best practices of NMT infrastructure and PBS systems with counterparts from five African countries. There will also be a networking session with the private sector and potential investors during which the cities of Musanze, Rubavu and Kigali will have the opportunity to promote the business potential of their respective cities. The workshop is being co-organized and co-hosted by UN Environment’s Share the Road Programme with support from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), UN Habitat and Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative (TUMI).