3 June 2020, Kampala, Uganda – Uganda has seen a booming demand for bicycles after the Government banned the use of public and private transport to curb the spread of COVID-19 except for essential workers

“Uganda was ready for a push towards cycling,” said Amanda Ngabirano, Makerere University lecturer during the UN-Habitat organized “Expert Group Meeting” on COVID-19 and Transport last month.

“Cycling has finally received the topmost attention of a nation.  Our President said that in respect to physical distancing, cycling is the safest and healthiest.”

Ugandan politicians including Ministers have been commuting on bicycles to attend Parliamentary sessions. Many cities around the world have installed temporary bike lanes and networks as people shun overcrowded public transport and the COVID-19 risks.

Ugandan university lecturer and cycling enthusiast Amanda Ngabirano on her bicycle   © Amanda Ngabirano
Ugandan university lecturer and cycling enthusiast Amanda Ngabirano on her bicycle
[Amanda Ngabirano]

This World Bicycle Day, on 3 June, the UN is encouraging governments to improve road safety and better integrate the needs of cyclists into the design of transport infrastructure.

 In 2012, Uganda adopted a Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) Policy to raise the profile of walking and cycling and ensure that safe NMT infrastructure is incorporated in the design of all urban roads.

After years of promoting walking and cycling through Open Street Events and pilot bike corridors, the Kampala Capital City Authority recently completed the first comprehensive and integrated walking and cycling corridor covering about 3.5 kilometres clearly demarcated. This is also expected to boost small businesses with shops and restaurants along the route attracting pedestrians and cyclists.

 “Kampala and similar other cities have a window of opportunity to take forward these kind of initiatives,” said Stefanie Holzwarth, UN-Habitat’s Associate Mobility Expert and a cycling enthusiast. “They can create a more resilient mobility system that is able to address the challenges of climate change, air pollution and road safety while also promoting livelihoods for the poor.”