Published on 30 June 2012 by Ben Barczewski
The Uvumbuzi Club, a cycling focused environmental conservation organization, is in the final stages of planning of its 24th annual Bikeathon. The Bikeathon is slated to take place on the second weekend of July. The event aims to raise awareness in Nairobi of the viability of cycling as a mode of urban transportation that is both environmentally friendly, and accessible to many Kenyans. The ride begins at Wilson Airport off of Langata Road and makes its way south to Magadi, a 108km (67 mile) ride. Along the way Uvumbuzi arranges for food and water stops as well as paramedic services. Once the riders arrive in Magadi they are provided with a bus to carry them back to Wilson Airport. “The ride there is all downhill, but the ride back is all uphill so we like to provide a bus ride back,” said Edmund Murage, project manager.
Uvumbuzi asks for a 1,000 Ksh registration fee, part of which goes to help support communities in the Magadi area. For instance, this year Uvumbuzi will be partnering with AAR Health to help rid school children of parasitic worms.
The club is committed to dispelling the myth, held by many Kenyans, that riding a bike is solely for the poor. For the club, cycling represents an environmentally sustainable mode of transport that comes with many benefits, including fewer smog-producing cars on the road and better health for the riders. Its Sunday rides are also designed to help put this myth to bed by demonstrating that anyone of any socioeconomic group can benefit from riding a bike.
To accomplish this, the 29-year-old club organizes weekend bike rides in Karen designed to introduce families to the joys of cycling in a safe environment with few cars. One of the biggest challenges to the club’s work is safety. Most roads in and around Nairobi lack bike lanes and motorists often feel the road is for cars only, making cycling risky, Murage remarked.
To that end, one of Uvumbuzi’s goals is to lobby Nairobi policy makers to include bike lanes in new road improvement projects as well as expanding the number of bike lanes on existing roads. Currently only three roads have bike lanes in the Nairobi area, Thika Rd., U.N. Ave, and Mbagathi Way. None of the lanes, however connect to any other, and so do not constitute a viable commuter network.