For five hours on Sunday (Aug 14), cars were banned from Rwanda’s capital of Kigali.
People gathered in Rwanda’s biggest stadium, the Amahoro Stadium, for free eye tests and general medical checkups. Kigali joins a global “pedestrianization movement” where cities around the world are experimenting with car-free days. World Car Free Day is Sept. 22 but more cities like Bogota, Colombia, and Jakarta, Indonesia are hosting weekly days. (Bogota also hosts a city-wide car free day every year.)
Kigali’s car free days—so far it has hosted three of them and the city says it plans to hold them every month—are one of a slew of city improvement measures that Rwanda has undertaken in its bid to become one of Africa’s cleanest and most developed cities.
On Fridays, work ends early and Rwandans are advised to go out and exercise. The last Saturday of every month is Umuganda, or “coming together” day where everyone above the age of 18 and under the age of 65 is expected to help clean the streets, trim bushes, or repair public buildings. The city also bans the use of plastic bags, walking barefoot, or sharing drinks.
In some ways, the measures have worked. Kigali is consistently ranked among the cleanest and safest cities in the world, a sharp turnaround for a country that experienced a deadly genocide two decades ago.
In a bid to promote healthy lifestyle for the residents of Kigali, the City authorities have introduced mass sports and exercises, to encourage people to walk, jog as well as ride bicycles. It is in this context that we have introduced a monthly car-free day.
The City Council, together with Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) partnered in promoting ‘Green Transport’—which involves jogging and riding bicycles—to fight Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) among city dwellers.