Under the theme of “Connecting People and Places” Nairobi’s Placemaking Week returned for its 3rd edition on Luthuli Avenue from 30 October to 3 November 2018
Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is a rapidly growing metropolitan area with an estimated 4 million people living or working within its city boundaries. According to the World Population Review, by 2030, the population may grow to as much as 7 million.Nairobi has been largely unprepared for the consequences of the rapid population growth – leaving mobility needs in the hands of private cars and uncoordinated and unsafe paratransit operators, the so-called Matatus. Besides the increasing motorization rate, half of the urban residents in Nairobi still rely on walking and cycling; but the space provided to them is limited, road safety is a real concern, and the exposure to air pollution is severe.
Transport interventions in Nairobi for long have ignored the needs and safety of non-motorized transport users and those relying on public transportation. A high-quality, city-wide public transport system and non-motorised transport network are lacking – two features that illustrate indispensable elements in creating a city where people and community come first.
For the 3rd time, Nairobi has facilitated what is called a “Placemaking Week”. This year, it took place from 30 October to 3 November 2018, on Luthuli Avenue, a congested, unsafe and polluted space, where pedestrians are fighting for space with Matatus, trolley pushers and motorbike riders every single day. During the course of the event, parts of Luthuli Avenue were closed down for motorized traffic, but opened up for Nairobi residents to walk, cycle, play and interact. The event turned Luthuli Avenue into a great shared street – where urban safety and security, air quality, health and wellbeing, as well as road safety were temporarily improved.
The street became a real public space for four days, where passer-bys were invited to re-envision and re-imagine Luthuli Avenue as a space for co-creation, community, and cohesion. Experiencing the contrast of Luthuli Avenue on a “normal” day, in comparison to the traffic calm setting during the placemaking event, had a great effect on participants and enabled passer-bys, visitors and city officials to reflect, compare and discuss alternative scenarios for the space. The event was able to communicate what we all crave in our cities at the very core of our essence of being human: dignity when moving around our cities and social interaction. The event culminated with the Critical Mass bicycle ride on Saturday, where inner-city street lanes were taken over by a group of cyclists, advocating for shared urban roads.
Under the Urban Electric Mobility Initiative, UN-Habitat supported the event in collaboration with all other partners including Architectural Association of Kenya, Centre for Creative and Cultural Industries,Critical Mass Nairobi, i-CMiiST (Implementing Creative Methodological Innovations for Inclusive Sustainable Transport Planning), KUWA Urban Spaces, Nairobi City County Government, Placemakers Nairobi, Public Space Network Nairobi, Safer Nairobi Initiative, Stockholm Environment Institute, and York University. Embarking on this event, a future of Nairobi was being discussed, that is welcoming to all people, disregarding of age, income or ability – a city where policies and decisions on urban issues are embracing inclusivity on a human-scale.