The traffic in Nairobi is some of the worst in the world. However, according to online resources, Nairobi is far from the levels of congestion experienced by many cities in the US and in India.
These online resources usually track the number of hours lost by commuters when they travel to work. The issue with this variable is that it does not quantify the various other factors that may exist when determining the extremity of traffic congestion.
The traffic in Nairobi rarely resembles a long line of inert vehicles, waiting for movement up ahead. No, Nairobi traffic is a sprawling mess of multiple diverging and converging lanes of traffic. Matatus push and shove, overtake and undertake and find themselves on the footpath along with cyclists and pedestrians.
It’s carnage. Especially on the Mombasa Road, where many businesses are located.
Consequences for Business
Bad traffic is bad for many reasons. It causes more accidents and deaths and is bad for the environment. It contributes to the creation of a nasty smog that is inhaled by citizens of Nairobi.
Furthermore, reducing vehicle traffic is the same as promoting other forms of transport such as cycling and walking. Studies have shown that cycling and walking can increase retail sales by 30%. This would benefit many of the old shopping centers along Mombasa Road.
Many of the non-retail businesses along Mombasa Road would also benefit from an increase in cycling and walking because it would allow clients to visit their premises with ease.
The World Bank estimates that Nairobi loses Ksh 50 million in productivity each day.
Car-free solutions are gaining in popularity. Kigali, in Rwanda, has implemented a car-free day every month since 2016. The government also promotes wellness activities and health and eye exams.
Kenyatta’s government has pledged to invest in the regeneration of Nairobi city center. Plans for car-free days on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 8am and 7pm have been discussed.
However, the issues in Nairobi are plenty. Nairobi’s roads are overflowing with matatus and motorbikes. Any attempt by the government to phase out these vehicles will be a direct attack on the income of many Kenyans.
Many difficult decisions will have to made by the Kenyan government and the Nairobi county government before any improvements are made. However, there is clearly an ambition to make Nairobi’s streets more business-friendly and more healthy for the residents of Nairobi.