If the ongoing works to turn Namirembe Road and Luwum Street into non-motorised transport (NMT) go on as planned, they will be ready for use by pedestrians and cyclists by July.
KCCA acting executive director Andrew Kitaka says the Shs3b project is being used as a pilot study to assess the efficiency of NMT, the first of its kind in Kampala city.
The project, which is funded by the government, is meant to reduce congestion by giving leeway to pedestrians and cyclists.
“Non-motorised transport has worked well in other countries and we would also use Namirembe Road and Luwum Street as a pilot study because many people in the city walk to work. When this project is done in July, it will then inform our next course of action,” he said during a recent tour of the project.
It is not clear when the project will start.
Namirembe Road stretches from Berkley (Bakuli) junction up to Mini-price shopping arcade at the foot of Luwum Street. From this spot, Luwum Street stretches through Burton and Dastur streets up to Entebbe Road.
Mr Kitaka noted that Both Namirembe Road and Luwum Street were mapped as an NMT corridor because of their busy nature.
However, the ongoing construction has since caused a hitch in the flow of traffic since part of Namirembe was closed from Shell Petrol Station to Kobil fuel station.
Although Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) mapped alternative city roads to use as construction works on Namirembe go on, some traders argue that the project could affect their businesses. Currently, motorists exiting the city centre can also use Allen Road at Qualicel Arcade through Nakivubo Road and connect to Kyaggwe Road through either Bombo or Rashid Khamis roads.
From Khamis Road, one can either connect to Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road or through Gaddafi Road up to Makerere Hill Road.
Alternatively, one can also use Kafumbe Mukasa Road and connect through Kisenyi, Rubaga Road and connect to Hoima Road.
However, taxi operators in Namirembe Road Taxi Park fault KCCA for ‘irregularly’ approving plans of buildings around the park without leaving for them an alternative route.
They argue that although the park was supposed to have an alternative exit route that would stretch through Ssemugoma Road, a building, which they describe as ‘illegal’, was erected at the proposed exit point, hence leaving them with only one exit route that overlooks Namirembe Road.
Ssemugoma Road stretches from Kafumbe Mukasa at Ham Shopping Mall and connects through Kisenyi and joins Mwanga II Road. It is just behind Namirembe Taxi Park.
“KCCA approved a building in a road reserve on Ssemugoma Road and it is now very hard to get a convenient alternative route when the construction works reach our current exit point. The initial plan was that after exiting through Ssemugoma Road, one could easily connect through Mwanga II Road to Rubaga Road and continue towards Hoima Road. We, therefore, do not know our fate,” says Mr Salim Ssenfuka, a taxi driver in Namirembe Taxi Park. Mr Wahab Barekye, a businessman, says: “KCCA never involved us when starting that project and we just learnt of it when it was being launched. One of the challenges is that the alternative roads which they mapped out are too narrow to accommodate cars that exit the city,” he says.
Despite the complaints, Mr Kitaka says KCCA will do whatever it can to ably divert traffic flow to mitigate traffic jam when the road becomes non-motorised.
He urges motorists to remain calm, saying the issue of Namirembe Taxi Park will be handled to ensure smooth operation of their businesses.
Namirembe Road also connects to other roads such as Nakivubo and Allen at Qualicel Shopping Arcade, John Ssebana Kizito Road (formerly Nakivubo Mews) at Ham Shopping Mall, Kafumba Mukasa Road, Mwanga II Road and Rubaga Road, among others. Although the initial designs of the NMT project were purely for pedestrians and cyclists, KCCA later revised them to cater for easy traffic flow, especially at junctions.
The new design is comprised of turnoffs, gardens, and lanes for both cyclists and pedestrians. This means that while motorists will be restricted from using Namirembe Road or Luwum Street, they can still access other city roads through intersections that are part of the NMT project.
“When you look at Mwanga II, Rubaga, Sipro and Namirembe roads, they all connect to Namirembe Road. This means that in the new designs, we have created provisions at some sections of the road for motorists to be able to join another road but as a one-way,” says Mr Dominic Ssemukutu, the KCCA supervisor for mechanical services.
Similarly, motorists from Burton and Dastur streets can drive through the NMT intersections on Luwum Street to either join Wilson Road or Kampala Road. The gardens, Mr Ssemukutu says, will be in the middle of the entire corridor with flowers just like the new Nakulabye-Kasubi lane, while lanes for both pedestrians and cyclists will be on both the right and left side.
The designs of the Namirembe Road NMT were made with support from the UN-Habitat, United Nations Environment Project (UNEP), Goudappel Africa Goudappel Coffeng, a Dutch NGO.
The gardens, Mr Ssemukutu says, will be in the middle of the entire corridor with flowers just like the new Nakulabye-Kasubi lane while lanes for both pedestrians and cyclists will be on both the right and left side.
According to the amended designs, a monument in honour of late Archbishop Janan Luwum, will be erected at the roundabout where Wilson Road starts off Burton and William streets, just next to Mapeera House. Archbishop Luwum was killed during Idi Amin’s regime in 1977.
Mr Yasiin Ssematimba, the chairperson of Kampala Operational Taxi Stages Association (Kotsa), welcomes the NMT project.
“At first, we were worried because we were told that the entire corridor would be only accessed by cyclists and pedestrians. However, the new designs give us leeway to use intersections on this corridor to connect to other city roads. I think this is good for us,” he says.
A draft of the Multi-Modal Transport master plan for Greater Kampala, a copy which we have seen, recommends the development of a comfortable, wide and safe NMT connecting all parts of Greater Kampala.
Such connectivity, the report adds, shall encourage the population to walk and cycle on a daily basis unhindered.
According to the masterplan, the optimal NMT corridor project, once implemented, shall have a combination of improved transport models, including segregated and wee-marked paths for cyclists and pedestrians.
The masterplan further states that walking currently accounts for 46 per cent of the trips above 1km in Greater Kampala while cycling accounts for only 2 per cent.
For instance, it states that more than 2.5 million non-motorised transport trips are performed daily in the metropolitan area and that the number of trips is expected to increase to a staggering eight million daily by the year 2040. The transport master plan, which was compiled in May last year, is scheduled to be released this year.
Ms Amanda Ngabirano, an urban planner, who is also the brain behind the Namirembe Road-Luwum Street NMT project, says while most people in the city walk to work, they are not safe as they compete for pavements with motorists.
“By mapping this corridor to be used by cyclists and pedestrians, we want to give a sigh of relief to them and make walking and cycling very enjoyable. Currently, it is very risky to even cycle in Kampala city because cyclists haven’t been catered for in the planning of the city,” she says.
Ms Amanda says when the Namirembe Road-Luwum Street NMT corridor is complete, KCCA ought to build the same corridors across the other divisions.