Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, is aiming to be one of the first towns in Africa to persuade people to select a two-wheel mode of transportation, but the hurdles are more uphill than freewheeling, as they are for most cities across the world with comparable objectives.
Guraride (literally, buy a ride), an e-mobility bikeshare transport system firm, has partnered with the City of Kigali to establish a bicycle sharing, or park and ride, program after four years of planning.
Anyone who works or lives in the city will be allowed to use the bicycles for free for the next two months while the company works out the price with its partners.
Christella Niyonkuru, the Company’s Vice President, said, “I cannot believe this day is here after years of hard effort.”
Ambassador Claver Gatete, Rwanda’s minister of infrastructure, proclaimed the bicycle plan open before cutting the ribbon that had been draped across one of the docking stations outside Kigali City Hall.
In his remarks, the minister stated, “I call on all citizens to embrace this effort and make the most of it.”
The minister went on to say that the bicycle sharing plan fit in with national goals for an environmentally conscious, integrated transportation system, citing health benefits as well as combatting climate change by lowering motorized pollution.
According to the minister, the government promised to building the infrastructure and making the required changes at a meeting in April this year to allow anyone who wished to cycle or walk to do so safely.
Cycle lanes are added to new roadways when they are created, notably in cities and towns. However, as other cities across the world are discovering, this is insufficient to promote a bike culture. The difficult effort of upgrading existing infrastructure to make it accessible and safe for cycling must be undertaken.
The Mayor of Kigali, Pudence Rubingisa, was there, as was the Inspector-General of the Rwanda National Police, Dan Munyuza, who was represented by Assistant Commissioner of Police Teddy Ruyenzi, who is also the Deputy Commissioner for traffic and road safety.
Commissioner Ruyenzi addressed a concern that will be on the minds of anyone considering cycling in Kigali: motorists who regard cyclists, let alone pedestrians, as a nuisance to be honked at but rarely given due consideration.
“Research shows that these types of bicycles are many times less likely than regular bicycles to be involved in accidents,” she reassured. Perhaps the bright green and yellow colors, which promote visibility, played a role in the study’s findings.
With the Tour de Rwanda primed to become one of the world’s main cycling destinations, Guraride, if it lives up to its promise, can complement, if not outshine, the tour in transforming Rwanda into a true cycling nation.