Many people are of the opinion that cars are now a necessity; however it does not come with its disadvantage which is mostly noise and environmental pollution.
On Sunday, Lagos state observed its first car free day in a bid to encourage road users and motorists to set aside their cars for a day and take up active and inclusive means of transport.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde said the aimed is to create awareness about the benefits of Non-Motorized Transport, discourage sedentary lifestyle and reduce pollution.
According to the World Bank in 2007, Motor vehicle (per 1,000 people) was 31 in 2007. It categorized Motor vehicles to include cars, buses, and freight vehicles but do not include two-wheelers.
A 2018 report by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimated the total number of vehicles in the country to be 11.826m with commercial vehicles holding about 58.08% of the number. Population at that time was put at 198 m putting Nigeria vehicle per population ratio at 0.06, which means 6 vehicles to every 100 people. This figure could be higher now.
The Q4 report by the NBS also indicated that 185,883 national drivers licenses were produced in 2018 and Lagos and FCT had the highest number of drivers licenses while Zamfara and Kebbi States produced the least numbers of national drivers license.
What is NMT
Non-Motorized Transportation (NMT) are all forms of transportation that excludes the use of an engine or motor for movement. Examples of NMT include walking, bicycle, small-wheeled transport such as skates, skateboards, push scooters and hand carts) and wheelchair.
In Nigeria today the mode of transportation are road, rail, water and air. In the cities people move around by road except in places like Lagos and areas with water bodies where water mode of transportation is utilized.
World Car Free Day
Cars are the most popular and convenient mode of transportation in most places around the world. Over the years people have protested its use due to the noise and pollution associated with it as well as accidents and deaths and health issues. It was in the light of this that the first car free Sunday was held in the Netherlands and Belgium in 1956 and 1957.
In 1994, a paper on reducing dependence on cars was distributed at an international conference. In the late 1990s, several European cities began planning car-free projects. In 2000, it was decided to make the day self-standing and held on September 22, and cities worldwide were invited to participate. Today, Car free day has become an annual event in 46 countries and 2,000 cities all over the world.
The Environmental Transport Association started Car-Free Day on the first Tuesday of their Green Transport Week. On Car-Free Day, people promote walking, bicycles, public transit, and other forms of sustainable transportation. It is estimated that there are over 1.2 billion cars in the world today up from 500 million in 1986.
Benefits and why NMT should be adopted across the country
The Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde said during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown when vehicular movement was restricted, the quality of the air improved.
“Vehicular emissions have now become a global issue. In Nigeria as well as other developing countries, 25% of the air pollution problems are a result of automobile exhaust. This is very evident in the number of unroadworthy and smoky vehicles plying our roads on daily basis, causing not just health issues but visibility problems and sometimes accidents’’, he said
According to the World Health Organization, ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths in the same period.
“Air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of the burden,” says Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “It is unacceptable that over 3 billion people – most of them women and children – are still breathing deadly smoke every day from using polluting stoves and fuels in their homes. If we don’t take urgent action on air pollution, we will never come close to achieving sustainable development.”
Aside from reduction in pollution, observing a car free day will reduced wear and tear on vehicles which can translate to lower maintenance costs, increased savings as money needed to fuel the car for that day will be saved.
It can also be a way for one to engage in physical exercise which could be a great way to spend time with family and friends.
If more states or the nation were to observe a car-free day it could be another way Nigeria could commit to greener energy as she works towards achieving the goals for her energy transition plan.
One thing that is peculiar about countries like Belgium, UK that observe the car free day is their impeccable road network and structure that makes it easy for the different class of users including bicycles, those walking as well as persons with disability.
The reverse however is the case in Nigeria as come areas aside the major cities cannot boast of good road and alternative means of transportation.
Bicycle which could be used as alternative to car transport is not cheap. The cost of a bicycle ranges from about N60,000 to over N200,000, meaning an average Nigerian might not be able to afford it with minimum wage at N30,000.
The way forward
To get people to key into the idea require that they be enlightened. This will mean the National Orientation Agency and civil society organizations creating awareness on the benefits of the car free day. This could be in form of advertisement, publication or mass SMS as well as on the social media.
There is also the need for the government to improve the road infrastructure; including construction of sidewalks and bike lanes, to boost people’s morale to want to leave their car and walk or ride a bicycle.
Writing by Annabel Nwachukwu