Bicycles are the only affordable solution to traffic jams in Accra

Bikers 11.png Bicycles are the affordable solution to traffic jams in Accra

Thu, 5 May 2022 Source: Nico van Staalduinen

Bicycles are the affordable solution to traffic jams in Accra.

I can almost hear you thinking.

No way obroni! this is Africa, not The Netherlands (I am a dual citizen of Ghana and the Netherlands).

But please, let me explain my idea about this simple and affordable solution to always arrive on time.

Indeed, riding a bicycle in the current traffic situation is almost like having a death wish.

I have been riding a motorbike for 14 years in Accra and escaped death (just) a few times. I was and am still not a motorbike enthusiast. The only reason I used a motorbike is that I detest standing still and losing my time in traffic for hours. Because of riding my motorbike, I was never to be late for an appointment.

Keep the following in mind: Ghana simply doesn’t have the money to extend our road system on a large scale. Due to bad planning in the past (and still sometimes today), there is often no space to create extra roads.

There is no money to compensate people if we need to break houses and other properties to create space for bigger roads. On top of that which political party is ready to do that on a scale, we need to decongest? I think it's the most certain way to lose the next elections.

From Atomic Junction all the way to Tetteh Quarshie, there is a real walkway and bicycle road. In The Netherlands (for example) the road to and from the University of Ghana and most of the Student Hostels would be crowded every day with students, lecturers, professors, and other staff going to the University on their bicycles.

In Ghana, however, walkways are often used for shops at official bus stops and the bicycle road is used by motorbikes when the normal road is getting choked.

In my plan, Accra would create a network of good and safe bicycle roads from all directions to our central business district: Nungua – Makola, Adenta – Makola, Spintex – Makola, Malam – Makola, etc.

So wherever you live around it, you can just jump on your bike and use it to go to work, shop, bring your children to school, and be on time.

These bicycle roads should be: Only accessible for bicycles, no motorbikes, no tricycles no shops, and well-controlled by police or traffic guards.

This and previous governments have been looking into other solutions, trains, sky trains, widening roads, extending tunnels, second Spintex road, demolishing properties, discussing whether Tema Highway should remain a highway, etc.

And so far, even if some solutions worked in the past, they will all work temporarily simply because we are getting more and more vehicles on our roads because we have a very bad functioning privatised (trotro) public transport system.

I live in Aburi and as earlier mentioned, I used a motorbike to go to work at the World Trade Center. This 38 km trip used to take me on my motorbike for 35-40 minutes. Sometimes, I really needed my car and it used to take me 90 - 120 minutes.

Indeed a motorbike is faster than a bicycle but let me give you the time that a person on a good bicycle would use from several places mentioned earlier on.

A distance of 10-12 km is about 30 minutes on a bicycle, how much time do you spend in your car or trotro to go that distance? Just 2 weeks ago I spend 1 hour and 5 minutes in my car during rush-hour to go from the tunnel at the University of Ghana to the roundabout before ShopRite. That is a distance of 6 km. That is 15-20 minutes on a bicycle if we had good and safe bicycle roads.

Yes, it can rain and yes you can get wet. But do you think it doesn’t rain in the Netherlands? You can buy a raincoat, at least here it rains “hot” water but in the Netherlands, it rains “Ice” water and sometimes snow.

Cities like Paris, London, and others are going green by creating bicycle roads for short distances; we can do the same in Accra. Dutch children from villages have a daily bicycle ride of 20-30-40 minutes to go to secondary school.

I needed to ride my bike for 30 minutes to get to my Agricultural school and 20 minutes to attend Technical school 5 days a week. That was normal for all of us.

One side effect of Ghanaians using bicycles for distances between 2-20 km will be that there are fewer private cars, taxis, and trotros on the roads, creating extra space for others and less CO2 emissions.

Another side effect is saving money. everyone who has a bike doesn't pay petrol for your car, no taxi or trotro fares.

Who is paying for all these bicycle roads?

I am sure with all “Going Green” and environmental discussions there are in institutions and countries in the developed world there would be many ready to finance or donate towards our Ghana bicycle project. Especially, the Netherlands has the know-how and is interested in saving energy, reducing CO2, and the planet projects.

The least our government can do is study this long-term solution.

Columnist: Nico van Staalduinen