Making Lusaka City streets safer and livable

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The Lusaka City Council (LCC) has to appreciate that urban streets are a scarce and valuable resource. How they are designed and managed represents an allocation of public resources that should balance various objectives such as cost effective mobility, overall accessibility, fairness for non-motorists, user convenience and comfort, safety and security, and local economic development.

And for Lusaka City to be efficient and liveable City, its urban transport system must favour resource-efficient modes of travel such as walking, cycling and public transport. There is need for integrated planning that makes travel without a car convenient, safe, comfortable and affordable. Regional planners call it smart growth, local planners call it transit-oriented development or new urbanism, and transport planners and engineers call it Complete Streets.

Complete Streets refers to roads designed to safely accommodate diverse modes, users and activities including walking, cycling, driving, public transport, people with disabilities, plus adjacent businesses and residents. Complete streets planning recognises that roads serve diverse functions including mobility, commerce, recreation and community, and that road users range from freight trucks to pedestrians with impairments. Complete streets support lower traffic speeds, alternative mode improvements, more connected networks, and more compact, accessible land use development. The new planning paradigm recognizes that high traffic speeds are inappropriate in urban areas.

On the other hand, conventional transport planning assumes that the streets’ primary users are motorists. It evaluates transport system performance based primarily on vehicle traffic speeds, which favors wider roads with higher design speeds. Assume that urban arterials should be designed for 50-80 km per hour, allowing 25-40 km average distances in 20-minute commute.


But these wider roads and increased vehicle traffic speed and volumes impose noise and air pollution, and higher pedestrian accident risks on the surrounding neighbourhoods through which they pass. By favouring wider roads and faster vehicle travel, conventional planning favors motorists over people who live and work in impacted neighbourhoods.

The conventional transport evaluation tends to exaggerate roadway expansion benefits and undervalue complete streets. But more comprehensive analysis that considers more objectives, impacts and options can help identify truly optimal urban street designs.

By reducing traffic speeds, improving transport options and supporting compact development, complete streets planning helps achieve various objectives including improved accessibility for non-drivers, road and parking facility savings, consumer savings and affordability, improved public fitness and health, energy conservation, noise and air pollution emission reductions, reduced sprawl, and more attractive streetscapes.

Complete streets also helps achieve social equity objectives: they insure that public roads serve all community members, reduces risks that vehicles impose on pedestrians or cyclists, and improves accessibility for physically, economically and socially disadvantaged people.

Many of the world’s most economically successful and liveable cities operate with such lower speeds because lower automobile access is more than offset by improved transport options and more accessible land use patterns.

The current Lusaka City’s demographic and economic trends are increasing demand for alternative modes and more accessible, liveable communities. The LCC should reflect on future travel demands and strategic planning objectives, such as improving accessibility, safety of pedestrians, economic development and basic mobility.

I therefore, urge the LCC to adopt design features which include wider and better foot walks, curbcuts and ramps, pedestrian refuge islands, cyclists’ lanes and paths, bus lanes, landscaping and lower traffic speeds. These redesigns can dramatically improve road safety for all users. Making safer streets always requires traffic engineering expertise and judgment, and some aspects such as turning radii and traffic signal timing are quite technical in nature. However, key concepts to designing safer streets are actually quite simple and common-sense driven.


Daniel Mwamba


Zambia Road Safety Trust

Tel: 0961475610


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