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Nairobi Bike Train: Safety in Numbers

Updated: Oct 12, 2022

A bike train is understood to be a group of people who ride bicycles together as a group. The idea of a bike train is pegged on the concept of ‘safety in numbers. The concept assumes that that by being part of a large physical group an individual is less likely to be the victim of a mishap, accident, attack, or other bad event on the road. A bike train operates like a traditional train by having a set start time, a set route and set meeting and finishing points. This is something that is agreed upon by members of the particular Bike Train.

The Nairobi Bike Train concept was developed by Critical Mass Nairobi in 2019. The bike train would ideally be a network of mini-bike trains serving different routes across the city of Nairobi. The idea of having the Nairobi Bike Train was arrived at after the success and observations from the first bike train that was organized by UNHabitat, in Runda. However, the motivation to have the Nairobi Bike Train was because we realized there were several cyclists in Nairobi who chose to ride their bicycles only when Critical Mass Nairobi had its monthly rides, which was once a month. This realization was alarming as one of the main goals for CMN is to empower cyclists to have the confidence to cycle as often as possible.

The main objective of the Nairobi Bike Train is to make it possible for more people to commute on their bicycles or just ride bicycles more often.

Steps in actualizing The Nairobi Bike Train

1. Introduce the concept to cyclists and general public

2. Collect movement data from cyclists

3. Analyze the movement data and identify potential bike train routes

4. Map and assess viability of identified routes (recce)

5. Undertake a pilot (s) on different routes

6. Fine tune route

7. Official launch the bike train

After introducing the concept, the next step is collecting movement data of cyclists. It is important to understand where cyclists were traveling from, their destinations and the roads they were using to get to the destinations. This information was gathered through a simple questionnaire that had only three questions: where does your journey start? Where journey end? and Which roads do you use? To further drum up support and create awareness on the bike train concept, Critical Mass Nairobi organized a cycling event which had close to 400 cyclists in attendance.

The cycling data collected showed that there are several cycling patterns/routes that crisscross the city of Nairobi, many of which have different starting points and endpoints. However, despite these differences, most routes tend to use some key roads (main corridors) at one point. This revelation meant that it is indeed possible to have a network of bike routes that are connected and that can generate a citywide network for a bike train.

That said, it would be prudent to undertake more research to understand why cyclists prefer different routes over others and the different genders and age groups using different routes. This research would help ensure that the routes selected for the bike trains are routes that people will actually be willing to use.

The next step is to undertake a mapping exercise which help narrow down which routes and also assess the viability of different routes. This will inform which route shall be used during the Pilot.

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