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Abiodun: Ambode should adopt ‘Walk Lagos’ to curb city’s gridlock

In the June 21, 2015 edition of EnviroNews, this writer wrote an article titled “How to tame Lagos gridlock,” wherein some of the causes responsible for the daily traffic congestion in Lagos Mega were identified. Some solutions on how to ameliorate the problem were also proffered in the article under reference.

Akinwunmi Ambode, Governor of Lagos State. Photo credit: ecomium.org

Akinwunmi Ambode, Governor of Lagos State. Photo credit: ecomium.org

Recently, it was reported in the media that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had embarked on the reorganisation of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) as part of the efforts to tame the city’s gridlock. The Governor, in October 2015, appointed a new Chief Executive Officer, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), Mr. Kayode Olamkpe, as the helmsman of LASTMA. He sacked a couple of the management staff and injected new blood into the Authority.

The Governor gave the new CEO and his team of officials the directive that they must change the traffic situation in the mega city for the better. Mr. Olamkpe must bring his profound experience as a “super cop” to bear on the performance of the Authority he was appointed to superintend. Governor Ambode publicly declared that the present gridlock in Lagos was unacceptable; but not insurmountable (my emphasis). Hence, he solicited the co-operation of all stakeholders to combat the menace.

Another step in the right direction taken by the Governor in addressing the problem was the agreement he reached with the Tanker Drivers’ Union and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), which also made headline news in the dailies. As reported, the executive of the Tanker Drivers’ Union had voluntarily agreed that its members would desist from parking their vehicles at unauthorised places on Lagos roads once the NPA provides designated parking facilities for their use. The NPA has promised to fulfill its part of the agreement within a stipulated timeframe so that the tanker drivers would commence using the authorised parking lots.

It was equally reported that some Local Government Areas (LGAs) within the city had constituted the Traffic Volunteer Corps (TVC) to complement the efforts of LASTMA in traffic management. This is a welcome development. It is hoped that the LGAs would be able to sustain the new initiative.

However, as much as Governor Ambode made valiant efforts to unchain Lagos from the firm grip of daily traffic lock jam, we are suggesting new creative approaches and desirable actions which are worthy of his immediate consideration and implementation being the Chief Executive of Lagos State.

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We propose as follows:

Lagos should adopt Walk (Your City) concept

Walk (Your City) was the ingenuity/creative idea of an American urban designer and activist, Matt Tomasulo, based in Raleigh, North Carolina in the United States of America, which unexpectedly became a “Global Movement” whereby cities are encouraged to adopt a “walking culture.” At the inception of the idea in Raleigh, North Carolina, Matt Tomasulo thought of how to make the city user-friendly and encouraged walking among the city residents instead of driving their cars very often. Tomasulo opined that: “a big obstacle to walking is this perceived barrier of a destination being ‘too far’; when in fact it is a walk-able distance.”

To correct this erroneous public impression, in 2012, Matt started a project code-named Walk Raleigh and created low-cost handy tools made up of 27 corrugated plastic signs which he posted on utility poles in three popular zones within the city of Raleigh overnight. The signs simply contained directional/walking distance messages of how long it would take to walk to nearby destinations within Raleigh such as a sporting arena, civic centre, school, train station, bus stop, government building (for example: city hall, museum), bank, historical district, popular monument and other places of interest for both local residents and visitors to Raleigh.

Walk Raleigh signs. Photo credit: Walk Raleigh, Matt Tomasulo, 2012

Walk Raleigh signs. Photo credit: Walk Raleigh, Matt Tomasulo, 2012

The signs caught the attention of Raleigh municipal administrators, who officially adopted the concept and incorporated it into its city-marketing strategy, by show-casing how walkable the city is. Walk Raleigh caught the bug among the city’s residents who now prefer to walk more often than driving. And with less driving, traffic congestion on the city roads reduced drastically. Added to this, Raleigh-ites are enjoying health benefits of walking, way-finding is easier and there are more people on the city streets fueling more social interaction and helping citizens becoming more engaged.

The novel idea of Walk Raleigh had since given birth to a “world-wide movement” known as WALK (YOUR CITY) with a dedicated website launched in November 2013. The website enables users to generate customised street signs in order to improve walkability of their cities’ neighborhoods. Cities across the globe have initiated their own fashion of the project. We now have Walk London, Walk Amsterdam, Walk New York, Walk Beijing, Walk Sydney, Walk Mexico, Walk Paris and Walk Moscow, among the most popular global examples. In essence, Matt Tomasulo, the originator of the creative idea, is a shining example of what is known in planning parlance as Tactical Urbanism. That is: direct action people can take without waiting endlessly for city leaders. In other words, he took a short-term action that precipitated a long term change in Raleigh in particular, and the world at large.

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This expose is to draw the attention of the Lagos State Governor to what is trending about cities around the world and how innovative idea (with low-cost wayfinding signs) can be applied to solve urban problems. More often than not, cities are held back by Analysis Paralysis – too much studies never got implemented. Therefore, it is being suggested that Governor Ambode adopt Walk Lagos as a strategy to encourage walking among the residents of Lagos Mega City. If people imbibe the culture of walking to go to places that are walkable, instead of using their cars, there would be less vehicles on the road leading to drastic reduction in environmental pollution and cleaner air for people to breathe to stay healthy.

The trio of Ministries of Transportation, Physical Planning and Information should collaborate and agree on the templates of the signage to use and where such directional signs would be posted within the nooks and crannies of the mega city. For effect, Lagosians should begin to see in public places catchy sign messages such as:

  • 7-minute walk to Lagos State Secretariat
  • 10-minute walk to Sheraton Hotel
  • It is a 15-minute walk to the National Stadium
  • The Federal Museum is 25-minute walk from here
  • Freedom Park is 16-minute walk by foot
  • You can walk to University of Lagos in 14 minutes
  • The local airport is 17 minutes by foot
  • You are 22 minutes walking distance to Lagos Central Business District
  • Tejuosho Market is walkable in 23 minutes

These signs are to deliberately erase the erroneous perception of places being too far to walk by foot thereby boosting walkability in Lagos. By using this approach, government would consciously change people transportation choices for the better and create new opportunities for public participation.

 

Make Lagos streets pedestrian-friendly

To kick-start Walk Lagos, the LASG would need to urgently take certain actions to support and encourage walk trips. Such actions would include the provision of pedestrian infrastructure, sustainable public enlightenment campaign for attitudinal change and blanket prohibition of street trading. If walking on the streets of Lagos is to appeal to pedestrians, there must be conducive environment for them to do so. As presently constituted, most of the streets lack walkways for pedestrians. Motorists and other street users are always in competition for space on Lagos roads and in the process, traffic get disrupted, stalled and gridlocked. For Walk Lagos to be a successful campaign, the government, as a matter of urgency, must begin to rehabilitate most city streets where human traffic is high and retrofit them with walkways for the convenient use of pedestrians.

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Ban street trading

The notoriety of street traders in Lagos is public knowledge. The traders are always in constant clash with officials of Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI). There are also traders who display their goods on pedestrian walkways where they are provided, which should not be so. Both habits are condemnable and must be discouraged. The adverse effect on the free flow of traffic and the danger inherent in street trading should be intensified in the public enlightenment under this dispensation that the city is experiencing daily gridlock. Lagos might want to understudy Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, a sister African city, as a ‘model’ in how to curb street trading. The city was adjudged the most pedestrian-friendly city in Africa in 2013 by Future City, a quarterly periodical on planning in Africa. The walkways for pedestrians in Addis Ababa are free of obstruction because traders are strictly prohibited by law not to display their goods on the sidewalks. What we consider impossible in Lagos could be out of ignorance, but experience from an African city where street trading has been successfully banned by law can invoke a change of attitude among Lagosians.

 

LASTMA must change its modus operandi

Governor Ambode’s body language about the un-impressive performance of the Authority was very clear to discerning minds. Having overhauled the Authority and injected new blood, the Governor expects a change for the better. LASTMA officials require new orientation. The Authority will perform better by employing experienced personnel and must ensure that those hired with no experience are properly trained on the rudiments of traffic management before they are sent to the street to control traffic. Finally, there must be zero-tolerance for venality. Any officer caught in the web of corruption must be sacked with immediate effect to serve as deterrent to other unscrupulous officers. Need is often a prime driver of innovation. Lagos gridlock requires innovative and sustainable approach, not ephemeral solution. It is about time Lagos joins the league of global cities of Walk (Your City) movement.

By Town planner (Tpl.) Yacoob Abiodun (former Secretary, National Housing Policy Council, in Hayward City, California, USA.)

8 comments

  1. Lagosians will walk if it is conducive. I noticed that the canal system in Lagos if paved on both sides could provide a good walkway system in the city. The canals luckily have setbacks specified by law. It these setbacks are developed into walkways, lagosians can walk to schools, markets, churches etc in their neighbourhoods

  2. Local government Traffic management corps in Lagos state comprises mainly of touts who know little about traffic management but specialize in extorting motorists. I experienced the mode of their operations in Aguda Surulere not too long ago. They hide at the NEPA Bus stop and harass motorists who make a right turn on red. The Lagos state traffic management law allows a right turn on red, but you need a hard time convincing these rough guys that you didn’t break any traffic laws, without patting with some hundreds of naira.

  3. Tunji Odunlami says:
    Beyond 5-10 minutes walking distance? I’m just thinking of the effect of the heat and high humidity characteristic of our weather on the comfort of a person walking longer distance particularly if the person is dressed up for an appointment.
    It is a long road especially with the cost of upgrading our road infrastructure/pedestrian facilities and the paucity of funds. But I agree we will need to start now particularly focusing on the busy/business activity neighbourhoods and possibly starting with creating pedestrian-only access.

  4. Tpl Yacoob Abiodun writes:
    Dear Prof.
    Nice to read from you from far away in Monrovia, Liberia.
    Let me refresh your memory that some of the issues raised and the suggestions you made in your rejoinder to this article were dealt with in the June 21, 2015 edition of EnviroNews, which you commented on as well.
    1. I want to debunk the impression you may have on this current article. There is no where did I present WALK [YOUR CITY] concept as the PANACEA to Lagos Gridlock. Hence, I went further to suggest other options or necessary actions that the LASG should take as part of the many solutions to the nagging problem of traffic, which you also mentioned (e.g provision of pedestrian infrastructure, multi-level parking facilities, walkways, integrated modes of transportation, curbing motorists’ indiscipline, LASTMA’s shortcomings etc.).
    2. The type of walk being advocated is NOT in the perception that you have in mind. It is neighborhood walking not long distance walk. For example, I see nothing wrong to walk from my house in Parkview to Falomo under clement weather condition instead of driving my car to get stuck in traffic. Inclement weather is NOT an everyday occurrence in Lagos, likewise in London, New York, Monrovia or Moscow.
    It is just the wrong notion that the elite in our clime has about walking. Elitism is our un-doing to why planning is seldom reckon with in Nigeria.
    We need to change that impression and enlighten the people about the health benefit of walking. Yes, I am not oblivious of how bad Lagos roads are. The absence of walkways on most Lagos roads does not mean the situation will remain like that forever. Why do we have urban renewal? Boudillion Road in Ikoyi was originally without sidewalks, but today it has. Ditto Glover Road in Ikoyi. This line of
    thought was implied in your rejoinder- the need to construct additional roads in Lagos where possible and necessary in order to make them pedestrian-friendly. Such feat was accomplished through urban renewal.
    Other roads in similar situation within the nooks and crannies of Lagos Mega
    City were reconstructed as well by former Gov. Fashola through the instrumentality of urban renewal. Since government is continuum. The incumbent Governor must have his own capital improvement programmes/projects to execute. Unlocking the gridlock in Lagos is definitely on his priority list, I was reliably informed.
    3. Walk Lagos is being advanced as additional solution to the ones you broached in your rejoinder. It is a creative idea with merit no matter how alien (?) as being
    construed. There are so many options/alternatives to solve urban problems. It is the synthesis and integration of all the solutions/ideas (both knowledge-based, native intelligence and creativity) that would bring about effective solution. Understudying one city in terms of planning and urban management is globally encouraged, especially by UNCHS HABITAT, World Bank and other multi-national agencies. Remember such programmes as Twinning of Cities, C2C, City Alliance, Best Practice etc. Walk [Lagos] is worth considering together with the suggestions you made.
    4. To enrich the discussion, I have engaged our other professional colleagues and non-planners too, by way of eliciting reactions from them for the good of our ailing cities. It is part of the advocacy/participatory approach that I cherish most in planning. We must be seen to be pragmatic (and open-minded) as planners with practical solutions to many of our knotty urban problems. Keeping quite is not the
    answer, it is the real challenge in our clime. Life is terminal, learning is eternal. We should be receptive to the latter.

  5. Prof Johnson Bade Falade (FNITP, RTP)
    MD/CEO Gotosearch.Com Ltd & Executive Director FDI says:

    I have read with interest your article advising Governor Ambode to adopt the ‘walk your city concept’ as a way to addressing the gridlock experienced in traffic flow in Lagos. While I have lots of sympathy for this advice, it seems misplaced. The kind of walks you are describing seems to be for people living in towns and these are towns which have provided amply for walks, I really mean walks which are safe walks, well paved, shaded with trees, attractive, safe and wide enough to walk in.
    How many people currently working in Lagos Island really live in Lagos Island? Do you expect people living in Ajah and Oshodi to walk to VI? Do you expect people living in Sangotedo to walk to Ikota shopping complex? Or people living in Agege to walk to Alausa? Where are the roads with ample spaces for pedestrians to walk? Is the weather friendly enough for people to walk on Lagos road? If you and I walk on Lagos roads, are we not going to be subjected to high humidity, high temperature and heavy down pour and flooding? What of the profuse perspiration and the stench of BO that are likely to arise from walking along the roads? Do we have public baths to go into if we need to shower or ease ourselves? In western cities where this concept is being adopted, people are encouraged to walk because both the city planning standard and the weather encourage such an act. In Nigeria, many streets are without the required walkways. Where walkways have been provided, illegal parking have encroached upon such public walks.
    The best method to tackle the traffic congestion in Lagos is to encourage modal transport choice, by road, water, overland rail, monorail, underground rail, BRT. We need to discourage the use of motor cars for moving people to and from places of work. The small buses being used which are the causes of the traffic jams should be discouraged. We need long buses, trams and trains that can convey between 75-200 people at a time instead of using 75-200 cars to do same. Most people using private cars do not carry more than or two at most. You can consider the spaces being occupied on the road by 200 cars carrying 200 people as compared with one bus carrying the same number of people. By adopting the mass transit mode, we can reduce the amount of pollution coming from the motorised transport.
    We need to develop the use of water transport to the fullest for moving people in Lagos. The various jetty points should be linked with mass transport. Parking facilities should be provided in these places for those who might be willing to take their cars there and park to board the boats.
    The causes of traffic congestion on Lagos roads are various. The first is the lack of lane discipline among danfo drivers. We repeatedly see drivers forming up to 10 lanes on 2-3 lanes carriageway. This is where LATMAS and the traffic police are supposed to catch the offenders. But they do not. In order to prevent lack of land discipline you need to mark out the lanes so that every driver should know that there are three or two lanes to drive on. But we do not mark the lanes.
    Illegal parking should be prohibited. We need to provide multi-storey car parks at strategic points in the city to discourage on street parking along congested roads.
    Bus stops are never planned and making stops at every point adds to the congestion problem. Traffic management is rarely done. Designation of one ways is one way of controlling the flow of traffic. Where designation of one-ways have been put into place there are no road signs to make drivers to know that they are driving on one-ways.
    Pot-holes are among the causes of traffic congestion. At these pot-holes drivers are forced to slow down, resulting in unnecessary congestion. Giving roads adequate maintenance such as repairing the pot-holes as when needed and ensuring that roads are properly constructed to minimize the occurrence of pot-holes are necessary.
    The use of keke NAPEP is another bad thing that happened to urban mobility in Nigeria.
    All roads should be properly sign-posted. Road furniture such as bus shelters and bus stops should properly located.
    We need to integrate transport planning with land use planning. Often the last thing thought about is transportation when we develop housing and commercial areas. When we develop a new estate we need to put in place a road hierarchy that will be suited for the traffic to be generated. All roads cannot be of the same width. We need to consider, primary, secondary and tertiary traffic flows so that the road receiving the most volume of traffic will be the ones that have most lanes.
    We need to carry out a comprehensive transportation study and plan the roads in Lagos. In this context, we might be able to identify the areas that we want to promote ‘walk the city’. Taking an urban solution concept borrowed from the west such as the ‘walk the city concept’ as proposed by Mr Abiodun is not likely to yield any decisive result. Direct application of western models to solving urban problems in Nigeria does not always produce the required result. It is only adaptation of these concepts that can sometimes work.
    I wish to warn that Governor Ambode should desist from adopting ad hoc responses to solving urban problems and should lean more to using a knowledge-based approach (KBO) to solving problem. I must say that on 7th November I had to opportunity of driving through Agege Motor road, Oshodi I
    must say that I am most disappointed that the little achievement that past
    Governor Fashola had recorded in Oshodi has been eroded in less than one year
    that Governor Ambode took over the governance of this great city. Is it true that Governor Ambode is poised to wrong the success of Fashola to show his own
    negative style of governance as it is becoming apparent? Who are his advisers
    in the area of urban planning and management?
    If we are going to improve the traffic situation in Lagos, the Governor should be encouraged to implement the Lagos Transport Master Plan, which has been formulated. We need the law enforcement agencies to be ruthless with erring drivers to bring sanity to bear in the use of road. We need to use more traffic lights as opposed to using police and traffic wardens who sometimes forget some lanes while they are passing other traffic. New development should be based on acceptable road design, construction and maintenance standards.
    Let me thank you for the opportunity to share my feelings about the Lagos traffic gridlock. This piece is written from my hotel room in Monrovia where I am currently studying the local government systems with a view to establishing the National Association of Local Government in Liberia.

  6. Adejare Shoyoye says:
    Thanks for your piece and I equally enjoyed reading some of the contributions. We have to be creative in our thinking. Creative thinking is defined as using our thinking process to develop ideas that are unique, useful, and worthy of further elaboration.
    I will suggest that we deploy metacognition system into solving this traffic gridlock problem. Thinking about thinking is questioning and finding more answers to a particular problem, we have to practice more of reflective thinking, bending backwards and using the experience of the past in solving a present problem.
    Let us try the Raleigh NC model as see it works for us. The state government can reach out to our higher institutions and fund a research into hour problem of this nature could be solved. I hope you will agree with me.

  7. Lolade Osomo says:
    This is write-up is quiet apt and also the effort if the Governor in curbing the menace is appropriate. My reactions are as follows.
    1. The governor should’ve allowed the new CEO of LASTMA understudy the management of the Authority before resuming office because Lagos traffic is not a job test and measurement
    2. Where are the walk-able roads in Lagos?
    3. Do we have walk trays on our roads in Lagos?
    4. Please consider the level of the education of our people before suggesting the idea of walking as tool for wellness
    5. A lot of campaigns have to be done to educate people on how to walk safe vis-a-vis their facing position when walking
    6. More importantly, Lagos is a Mega city and not comparable to Raleigh

  8. I’ve gone through the write up and I’m convinced it’s a very good piece. The issue is whether those in charge are committed and concerned enough to take note despite the Governor’s alarm.
    No program, no matter how good intentioned, can succeed without taking into account the culture and peculiarities of the people the program is meant for.
    Leadership in Nigeria has not always been about the people or for service. People, therefore, tend to be suspicious of government initiatives especially if they are likely to result in some apparent or real discomfort, even if temporary.
    Government programs need extra efforts that agents of government are unwilling to put in as they see themselves as bosses who hold all the power and authority to ride roughshod over the people. Professional inputs are almost always discountenanced even when such is available at no extra cost.
    I believe a lot of walking already take place in some busy areas of Lagos Island and Mainland but insufficiency or total lack of reliable and affordable public transportation and lack of concern by government to initiate some controls to limit vehicular movement tend to encourage those used to comfortable movement from place to place to avoid leaving their vehicles at places where they can be easily accessed and picked up. Government officials can enforce easy movement for themselves through various means, especially sirens and road closures, so others can continue to get stuck for all they care.
    LAMATA started well but it is now decrepit and you can easily pick up diseases from the ragged and unreliable vehicles currently in use. One would have expected that, by now, use of personal vehicles will no longer be attractive in the areas covered by the services due to improvements and easier availability and access but the reverse is the case.
    Street Trading becomes an issue only where traders interfere with vehicular movement. There is Street Trading in Manhattan and London but the traders never come on the road to interfere with vehicular movement.
    LASTMA is an Instrument of government. It’s role should be redefined to include educating the general public on the advantages of free vehicular movement not only to enforce and sanction in a society dominated by poor selfish and self-serving leadership and endemic illiteracy and absolute and total lack of concern for the interest and comfort of others. Local Governments have roles to play in this regard but they are totally left out and are unconcerned because they have all they want.
    With the departure of Fashola things are changing to what they were before him because the people have not imbibed the culture he tried to introduce. Oshodi, Robberies in traffic and a new wave of Bank Robberies are veritable examples. There is a place for enforcement but carrying the people along gives longer lasting results.
    Change of Leadership at LASTMA is not likely to avail for much in the long run.
    You view the problems with Professional Passion but can you say that of those in government saddled with the responsibility of attending to the problems that bother you so much?
    The foundation is what matters most but in this particular case it’s what people in charge bother least about: they would rather treat instead of preventing the problems because treating is more profitable. As long as they are able to earn their living unhindered, people can dwell and roast on the roads.
    It’s well.
    My regards.

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