In June 2016, the Heinrich Boll Foundation and Future Lagos hosted a half-day discussion about cycling in the city, titled ‘Bikeable City: A Non-Motorised Transport Solution for Lagos?’. Three speakers introduced the topic of Lagos as a bikeable city from their experience and knowledge; Dr. Tunji Adejumo (African Regional President, International Federation of Landscape Architects), Mr. Shitta-Bey (Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), Lagos State Government), and Mr. Ladipọ Soetan (Cycology Riding Club).
According to Dr. Adejumo, within Lagos there has been a spike of interest paid to the concept of the low carbon city and the “opportunity for stakeholders to define policies that will mould urban landscapes towards improved liveability using compatible and economic low carbon technologies”, especially since the advent of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union Targets, which are directed at social and environmental sustainability in response to climate change. The conference was a culmination of these ideas interacting with the lived experiences of Nigerians and their desire for a healthier, happier city.
The conference focused on modes of non-motorised transport (NMT), including bicycles, handcarts and walking; and the part these could play in moving cities like Lagos towards environmental sustainability. The reason: these modes of transport are sustainable as they do not use fossil fuels or other energy sources, and are furthermore resilient and safe.
As has been well documented by experts around the world, cycling has multiple benefits for cities and for city residents. It costs far less than motorised transport, both for the users and in terms of the investment in infrastructure required of the city. Cities with convenient cycling infrastructure benefit from significant health care savings from increased physical activity, reduced air pollution levels and reduced road fatalities. Cycling might be considered the great equaliser of the modes of transport because it enhances mobility for the urban poor and increases the potential for interaction among nearly all groups.
Clearly there are compelling economic, social and environmental reasons for cities to invest in safe and well-connected cycling infrastructure. It became clear within the conference that NMT should form the core of sustainable transport systems and by integrating NMT with other efficient modes of long-distance transport (such as trains), there could be a marked improvement in the urban environment and in citizens’ quality of life. When this is done there is also increased accessibility and mobility within cities, often for the most marginalised groups.
But cycling isn’t popular in Lagos! Cycling currently meets less than 5% of the city’s transportation needs.
The research presented by Dr Adejumo gave insight into the reasons why people in Lagos choose not to cycle. These are: the fear of accidents, the high crime rate, the lack of facilities and infrastructure, and the social association of cycling with poverty. In addition Mr. Soetan mentioned other challenges cyclists face in Lagos that discourage cycling: lack of consistent law enforcement, lack of compliance to road safety rules and regulations, lack of adequate road safety signage, the total disregard for smaller road users and the lack of dedicated cycle lanes/paths.
Despite cycling’s minimal popularity in Lagos, cycling was once ubiquitous. Images from the 70’s show more cyclists than motorists on the roads of Lagos.
In the 60’s and 70’s roads were planned with pedestrians and cyclists in mind, but this later changed when driving became socially desirable in Nigeria. Though cycling is not popular for the aforementioned dangers, its popularity has increased in the past year, because of the downturn of the economy, continuous petrol shortages and the rapid increase in the price of petroleum. This recent trend bodes well for the future of cycling in Lagos, especially if adequate time and resources are given to making it safe. Dr Adejumo expressed his belief that Lagos can get back to the cycling city it once was.
Mr. Shitta-Bey explained that Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) subscribes to similar views about cycling and has similar hopes for transport in Lagos. It has formulated a Non-motorised Transport Master Plan for Lagos and is doing its best to implement it. A large 2012 cycling initiative was formative for the plan. The project included 1,800m of 1.5m-wide segregated bicycle lane on Wempco Road and an arterial highway in Ikeja, funded with foreign capital. It was certainly a positive contribution, but included a number of glaring inadequacies; the cycle lane was not integrated with other transport modes and not enough was done to alert the community to the feasibility and desirability of cycling as a mode of transport which resulted in minimal buy-in from the community.
The consequence of this pilot project is that LAMATA uses a two-pronged approach to accomplishing the NMT Master Plan. The first prong is infrastructure oriented, focusing on the expansion and upgrading of the NMT infrastructure in Lagos. The second prong is user-oriented, addressing user uptake, user-friendliness and the efficiency of infrastructure for users.
LAMATA has identified Lagos Local Government as a key stakeholder to address infrastructure and has started to break down the 20 local government areas to accurately understand what transport modes currently exist and what needs to be done to improve the transport infrastructure including planned NMT routes. Similarly, LAMATA has identified non-governmental organisations as their key partners to address user-oriented issues such as educating citizens and promoting NMT.
Regarding law enforcement and regulation, Shitta-Bey suggested creating an organisation that focuses exclusively on NMT regulation, technology and manufacturing.
The third major feature of the day was a graphical presentation of aspirations for cycling in Lagos prepared by students of the University of Lagos and Dr. Adejumo.
Dr. Adejumo took us on a journey of off road non-motorised route system made of walkways and bicycle lanes that can be used for both leisure and transportation. The aim of this section of the day was to trigger more interest in cycling and increase demand for infrastructure. Dr Adejumo expanded on this initial premise, identifying six major natural drainage basins and tributaries, creek setbacks, and railway setbacks which have potential to be used as cycling space — a 22.5km route from Akilo/Alausa to Iwaya/Univeristy of Lagos. The diagrams included recreational areas, bicycle parking, playgrounds and of course the cycle route.
All three speakers and the discussions following the presentation proved that there is a need, desire and a viable strategy to move towards a bikeable city. It requires political will, education, and the involvement of multiple stakeholders including all levels of government, non-profit organisations, the private sector, cyclists and non-cyclists who use the road. Although the task seems enormous, the benefits are tangible and within reach if we remain committed to the journey ahead.
- Mr. Ladipọ Soetan
- Dr. Tunji Adejumo
- Mr. Shitta-Bey
Future Lagos is part of the Future Cape Town platform.
Top photo: Bikes. Brendon Bosworth.Read older posts from this section