NAIROBI, April 24, 2018 – It is evening at the ever-busy Sosiani Bridge, and traffic is building up as people head home at the end of the work day.
Motorists and cyclists cross the bridge that hovers over Sosiani River, connecting Langas Estate and the town of Eldoret. Similarly, pedestrians, including school children and people in wheelchairs, are moving confidently along the footbridges that run along either side of the bridge. Traders are busy taking advantage of the foot traffic to sell tree seedlings, groceries, and other wares.
Judith Akumu, who has run a tree nursery near the bridge since 1999, could not imagine such harmony between people, motorized traffic and nature two years ago. She recalls the incessant interaction between human and vehicular traffic on the narrow bridge was a major cause of traffic accidents. Pedestrians using the bridge, especially school children, were exposed to significant risks of getting hit by a motor vehicle or bicycle that were persistently fighting for space on the bridge. Insecurity was high with frequent cases of petty and violent robbery, some fatal. Locals lived in fear of crossing the bridge, yet they had no alternative route to and from their daily chores.
“Previously, vehicles, motorbikes, bicycles, and pedestrians competed for the limited space at the bridge resulting in accidents,” said Akumu. “We would witness two to three accidents every week, but now, accidents have reduced significantly.”
Built in 2016, the Sosiani footbridge is one of the many non-motorized transport (NMT) facilities constructed in Uasin Gishu County with support from the World Bank. More than 80 kilometres of pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths have been constructed in Eldoret under two Bank-funded programs - the Kenya Municipal Programme (KMP) and the Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement Project (KISIP).
In addition to improving road safety for residents of Eldoret, the NMT infrastructure has inspired many residents to walk or cycle, thereby contributing to improving their health.
“The NMT is one of the greatest achievements by the county,” said Gideon Birir, an engineer and the county executive in charge of roads, transport and public works. “I get mesmerized when I walk around and see many people walking peacefully to their homes without worrying about being knocked down by vehicles. There is peace and good health here. The moment people walk, they are healthier.”
To enhance the safe use of the footpaths, street lights and high mast flood lights have been installed in strategic locations along the paths, and in other public spaces such as markets and bus parks. These interventions have helped children be more safe walking to and from school, and traders have improved their income now that their businesses can remain open after dusk.
Foot and bicycle paths are one part of the infrastructure improvements delivered under the KMP, KISIP and Nairobi Metropolitan Services Improvement Project (NaMSIP). Key milestones of the three projects include:
- The construction of nearly 100 kilometres of roads, providing improved access to over 500,000 people
- The construction of about 138 kilometres of storm water drains, protecting more than 1.1 million people from periodic flooding
- The connection of more than 6,300 households to piped water, and about 4,600 households have been connected to a sewerage system
- The construction of more than 270 kilometres of foot and bicycle paths in urban centers across the country, directly benefitting more than 1.27 million urban residents
- Installation and operation of nearly 2,150 high-mast and street lights, providing 3.2 million people with safer and more lively streets at night
- Strong focus on integrated urban planning and urban development, with linkages to connectivity and improved tenure security in informal settlements.
Altogether, these interventions have improved the living conditions for over 6.5 million urban residents across the country.