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December 17, 2019

Ethiopia marks eleventh car-free day

Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa first held a car-free event on 8 December 2018, closing 4 km of streets in the heart of the city on a Sunday morning. The event is now held on the last Sunday of every Ethiopian month and approximately ten thousand residents participate.

Despite the heavy rains, Ethiopia held a successful eleventh edition of its monthly car free day on the 24 November 2019. The Streets for the People event, or Menged le Sew as it is known in Amharic, took place in the cities of Addis Ababa, Jimma, Bahir Dar, and Mekele.

The initiative is led by the Ministry of Transport and regional governments with support from partners including the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and ITDP.

Globally, the transportation sector is responsible for approximately 25 percent of greenhouse emissions, with the number expected to raise exponentially due to rapid urbanisation. Ethiopia intends to reduce the level of pollution in the country and promote healthy lifestyles for its citizens by advocating for active mobility.

The community event was filled with colour and the open streets saw youth-led activities including walking, sports, street art for children, cycling, skating, aerobics, and martial arts. There was a medical screening camp for non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer. Urban design models showcased the future of cities and plans put in place to ensure improved transport systems.

Successful car-free days are known to influence policy, contributing to a paradigm shift toward moving people instead of moving motor vehicles. Ethiopian cities have now started to redesign neighbourhoods and intersections to ensure that these areas offer accessibility and safety for all.

Addis Ababa is already implementing a bus rapid transit (BRT) system with intermodal non-motorised transport options to improve connectivity to the system. According to the C40’s Deadline 2020 report, BRT is the most effective measure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from urban transport, with a potential to deliver a third of cities’ pledged emission reductions. With the regular car-free events, Ethiopia is on its way to becoming a model for urban liveability.

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