UN-Habitat joined the Placemaking Network Nairobi in the Placemaking Week Nairobi 2021, organised as part of Urban October. Themed around accelerating urban action for a carbon-free world, placemaking week sought to drive engagement around climate action and partnerships for places.

Placemaking Week Nairobi is dedicated to celebrating the city’s public spaces and community-led activities which are revolutionising the use and experience of shared spaces and the city at large. It has been organised annually since 2016 by Placemaking Network Nairobi, a network of learning and implementing partners working on public space, culture and creative industries across institutional domains including the government, the civil society, the private sector and academia.

Artists, placemakers, passers-by and invited stakeholders led a number of events in the city. GoDown Arts Centre led the design of streets through the eyes of women and girls with the HerCity team. There was a placemaking in Africa urban dialogue led by Code for Africa, an arts residency that brought together 20 artists to activate public spaces in the city centre organised by TICAH, the Kilimani Street festival led by Kilimani Project Foundation, a variety of outreach activities led by the Public Space Network, cycling for the love of Nairobi River and the activation of Short Street led by the Safer Nairobi Initiative among others.

Organised in collaboration with Mama cycling and Critical Mass Nairobi through International Climate Initiative supported Urban Pathways, ‘Cycling for the love of Nairobi River’ brought together over 300 cyclists to highlight the need to ‘invite’ people to cycle by improving support infrastructure. Cyclists gathered just a stone’s throw away from the newly transformed Luthuli Avenue, to advocate for the creation of an interconnected network of green and public spaces along the river corridor and beyond.

A large portion of the Nairobi’s population already relies on walking and cycling as part of their daily commute. Through inclusive urban planning and design, walking and cycling can be promoted for both climate and equity benefits. Providing space for cycling lanes, pedestrian precincts and public spaces such as parks and gardens can promote mental and physical health and wellbeing, foster social cohesion, and reduce exposure to air pollution and harmful emissions.

While flagging off the cyclists, UN-Habitat representative Mr. Remy Sietchiping noted that “climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century… the absence of investment in climate resilience and adaptation can erode the environmental value of urbanization.”

He encouraged the city to invest in climate resilient strategies and mainstream climate action in its normative programmes and urban development projects. Mr. Brian Mugunda, representing the Kenya Permanent Mission to UN-Habitat, noted that walking and cycling should be promoted to minimize carbon emissions and promote active mobility. He added that the Government of Kenya is committed to promoting the uptake of walking and cycling through policy and other strategic avenues.  

Alongside the cycling event was also co-visioning exercise to convene voices around aspirations for and opportunities along the Nairobi River Corridor. This saw cyclists and pedestrians share their ideas and feedback on this ambitious project. Cyclists and other participants impressed on the Nairobi Metropolitan Services and partners the importance of investing in safer, continuous and high-quality walkways and bike lanes along the river system as a means of easing congestion on city roads, improving physical and mental health and wellbeing, and reducing carbon emissions.

Co-organised with Kounkuey Design Initiative, this is a fundamental part of public engagement in the Nairobi River Life Project and the beginning of a continuous process to collectively re-imagine the Nairobi River corridor as the lifeline of the city; a green corridor; and a recreation, creative and retail frontier of the city. Nairobi River Life project is a joint flagship initiative of the Government of Kenya and UN-Habitat aimed at reclaiming Nairobi River for a better urban and environmental performance.