NAIROBI – John Kinyanjui has a sound grasp of the health and environmental benefits of cycling and has encouraged young peers to embrace this activity that is slowly gaining traction in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
The finance major in his early 20s is currently an intern at the United Nations Offices in Nairobi where a bike-sharing model was launched on Monday to ease movement of staff and visitors in the sprawling compound.
Speaking to Xinhua after a bicycle ride, Kinyanjui said he looked forward to elevation of non-motorized transport in Nairobi and beyond to help tackle mounting air pollution.
“Riding on a bicycle is good for our health and environment. At least we can be able to stretch and boost physical fitness. We will be able to reduce carbon emission and traffic congestion through cycling,” said Kinyanjui.
He was among dozens of UN staff, school children and visitors who rode on state-of-the-art bikes donated by China’s Mobike in the expansive compound that houses major UN agencies.
Erik Solheim, executive director of UN Environment (UNEP), said Mobike had donated 100 bicycles to support the novel bike-sharing scheme that is expected to promote green transport in rapidly growing African cities.
“This is a great moment for us because we would like to lead by example. Bike-sharing is already active in Europe, America and China. I would like to see it spread in Africa,” Solheim said.
He added that supportive infrastructure, enactment of new policies and legislation is key to promoting cycling in African cities grappling with traffic congestion and air pollution.
Expatriates stationed at the UN offices in Nairobi welcomed the launch of the bike-sharing scheme, terming it a milestone in green transport that has eluded many African cities.
Stefanie Holzwarth, an associate human settlements officer at the United Nations Human Settlements Program, said a bike-sharing scheme is long overdue to help boost environmental health in Nairobi and adjacent towns.
“I am excited that we have a bike-sharing scheme at the UN compound. I love cycling and it is all about sustainable mobility,” Holzwarth said. “The UN is now a showcase for sustainable transport.”
The German national noted that cycling is not only time-saving but can also reduce carbon emission in cities significantly.
“There is a huge focus on low carbon transport globally,” Holzwarth said, adding that non-motorized transport will advance green agenda and human health in Africa.
Charles Barlett, a writer on ecosystems and biodiversity at UNEP, concurred.
“I am a lifelong cyclist and the launch of bike-sharing scheme at the UN offices in Nairobi will contribute to zero pollution,” said Barlett.
Kenyans also hailed the launch of the bike-sharing scheme at the UN compound in Nairobi, saying it motivated them to embrace low-carbon mobility and save the environment from rampant pollution.
Wycliffe Lumbasi, a messenger and cycling enthusiast, said availability of custom-made bicycles donated by Mobike will ease his movement in the UN compound.
“These bikes are fast, strong and have a unique color. Kenyans should ride on them to cut down on diesel consumption that is responsible for air pollution in Nairobi,” said Lumbasi.
Violet Nkatha, an English Teacher at Nairobi’s Milimani Primary School, agreed that cycling should be popularized to address the endemic traffic congestion and air pollution in the Kenyan capital.
“The launch of a bike-sharing model is a very good idea and will help us tackle pollution and traffic jams that have impacted negatively on school-going children in Nairobi,” Nkatha said.
Joy Mutheu, a 13-year-old pupil at Milimani Primary School that is located in an upscale Nairobi suburb, is optimistic that greater uptake of cycling will transform the lives of young learners.
“I think we have a good opportunity to enjoy biking from home to school and escape the travails of long hours in traffic,” Mutheu said, adding that gridlock that is endemic in Nairobi highways has affected the mental health of pupils.