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Having received a number of messages and emails over the past couple of months, it seems about time to state the obvious: that kampala.ver has died an untimely and sudden death and joins ranks with all those millions of deaf blogs out there.

The motive of this blog was to move around Kampala with open eyes, talk about her, criticise her, and publish good, weird and crazy ideas – sometimes to simply go on a rant. All that with the purpose of inspiring others to do the same, or at least to become aware of the fact that a city belongs to its citizens and needs their urgent attention. Most of all the motive was to enter into a discussion. Considering the infant state of Uganda’s civil society there certainly were some shy signs of exactly that starting to happen. Overall, I don’t think it was the idea behind kampala.ver that was bad.

It was the reality of my daily life which just didn’t match the aspirations. I know of few Architects who have other hobbies than doing more Architecture and that certainly applies to myself. In simple terms: I didn’t have enough time to generate intelligent posts on a regular basis and wasn’t willing to compromise on my day job. That’s the end of the story (flowers below, please).

Best Of kampala.ver
For those of you who come across for the first time and want to get a glimpse of what kampala.ver was all about, read some of this:

New Roads #1, #2, #3
…are three articles describing a three-layered approach to solve the problem of Kampala’s South being cut off traffic-wise: introducing Canal Street, Southern Ringroad and Southern Bypass.

From Another Planet
…describes the mind-boggling example of the Brazilian city of Curitiba, proving that good urban planning in the context of a developing country is possible.

Dear KCC,
…explains how easily the introduction of a Percent for Art policy could make Kampala a better place.

New Old Taxi Park
…proposes the replacement of Central Kampala’s famous Old Taxi Park with a purely pedestrian, mixed-use urban development.

Organized Environments
…is all about the pros and cons of Kampala’s booming property developing industry.

Good Architecture #1
…features my personal favourite amongst Kampala’s buildings.

Shame Towers
…decries the destruction of the UCB building.

Central Kampala Public Transport Terminal
…is the design of a large bus terminal at the Southern tip of Kampala’s Central Business District.

Kabalagala re-loaded
…contains a Masterplan for Kabalagala including a pedestrian area.

The rescue of the remaining and the creation of new recreational parks within Kampala should focus on two zones: valleys and hilltops. The former is a physical necessity; wetlands with frequent flooding make developments either costly (if they are done properly), or hazardous (if not).

Sparing the hilltops from further privatisation is more of an Urban Design issue.

In a recent Monitor article, Mr Frank Matovu, an Architect in the Urban Planning and Land Management Department at KCC, was quoted as saying that further sub-divisions of Kampala’s hilltops threaten their very existence. “Nakasero hills should be covered by trees but people are sub-dividing the original plots and structural developments are coming up thus most of the trees are being cut.”

It is good to hear that, for once, a KCC official actually states that Kampala’s hilltops should be covered by trees. Surely, that is a brand new policy. Or what happened here:

Naguru Hill, Kampala

Refering to the practical aspects on how to handle public green spaces, the article further quotes Mr Matovu as saying that “it is better to let everybody know them and give it’s management to private individuals who should work under close supervision of the concerned authorities. The private developer can then come up with a few income generating activities within the public space and impose a fee on them to help him pay his bills.”

While principally there is nothing wrong with private management of public spaces, the “close supervision of the concerned authorities” will never take place if Mr Matovu has his own organisation in mind. If KCC is running the show, we end up with Kisementi Gardens (two tiny triangular pieces of lawn, cut into two by a petrol station = the private developer); or Centenary ‘Park’ – a bit of green littered with uncompleted shopping malls and restaurants.

All of this is spiced by KCC’s idiotic fence-obsession. A public space – whether publicly or privately managed and financed – DOES NOT REQUIRE ANY FENCES. What is public about a caged area? Are we in England? Why don’t we allow people to walk through a park where and when they want to? And what on earth do the traffic islands around Clock Tower need fences for?

As argued before, Kampala’s South faces a structural accessibility problem. While the North has a three-layered system of ringroads surrounding the city centre, the South has pretty much none. This leads to all traffic using Entebbe Road and subsequently getting stuck at Clock Tower.

What is needed in the longer term is a mirroring of the three northern semi-circles.

Ring 1: Connects Clock Tower and Wandegeya be means of ‘Canal Street‘, a dual carriageway on top of Nakivubo Channel.

Ring 2: Serving as the equivalent to Lugogo Bypass, this Southern Ringroad starts at Lugogo Shopping Mall, passes through Muyenga, Kansanga, Makindye, Natete, Mengo and finally ends at Wandegeya junction.

Ring 3: The Northern Bypass is currently being completed and is due to be opened this year. It is likely to have a major impact on central Kampala because all heavy-duty through-traffic will be able to avoid the city. At a much later stage, the same should happen to the South (click to enlarge):

Proposed Southern Bypass, Kampala

Similar to the Northern Bypass, most of this road will be on a new alignment. It commences at Mandela Stadium, passes Kireka, Mbuya and Bugolobi to their South and crosses the swamp towards Muyenga. It swings around Bukasa before joining Gaba Road North-West of Bunga. It then continues to Munyonyo, crosses the swamp and follows an existing road towards Lubowa. In Kajjansi the bypass crosses Entebbe Road. From there, it runs through the valleys until it joins Masaka Road and subsequently the Northern Bypass in Busega.

Dr Kiggungu Amin Tamale is an Urban Planner, a consultant with the Uganda Management Institute and a Makerere University lecturer. He also is the acting president of the Uganda Public Transport Users Association (UPTUA) – (yes, it exists!). In a recent Observer article – ‘We can return sanity on our roads‘ – he analyses Kampala’s traffic mess.

He argues that currently ‘in Kampala, about 23,813 man-hours are lost each day by commuters due to traffic jam and the lack of an efficient transport system’ and that Kampala therefore needs to be turned into a public transport-dependent city (as opposed to the current car-dependency). The introduction of a well-regulated public transport system would not only have a positive economic impact because people don’t waste half of their day in traffic jams, it is also likely to save energy and significantly enhance the city’s living quality.

The extra-terrestrial example of Curitiba shows that this can be achieved in the context of a developing nation, without massive infrastructural investments. It needs a) intelligent leadership; and b) a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.

The first one, I don’t know.

The second is achieved by identifying five or so corridors in and out of the city centre and turn them into arterial roads. Their road reserves need to be widened in order to make room for a dual carriageway and bus-only lanes in either direction. Because, as Dr Kiggundu Amin Tamale observes,

Another failure relates to the regulation of mixed traffic – that is, boda boda (motorcycles), bicycles, private cars, trucks and mini-buses, all using the same road – in Kampala. Due to this muddled policy of mixed traffic, transport services in most parts of the city continue to be poor and inadequate, especially during peak hour periods.

Proposed express road layout

This is how a well-functioning arterial road could look like. At its centre, it has a green strip, nicely maintained and lined with trees. Then comes a dual carriageway used by private transport. The next lane is the Express Bus lane, separated from the main road by another green strip. Then comes the Boda Boda and Bicycle lane. Last is a pedestrian walkway. (Open drainage channels that can only be crossed deploying impala-like acrobatics are nowhere to be seen. In fact they are hidden underneath the pedestrian walkway.)

Every 1.5km or so, there are Bus stops. Wherever they occur, a paved strip marks a pedestrian crossing. An arterial road is not a highway; therefore, the necessary separation of functions has to be carried out in such a way that it doesn’t disintegrate the city by creating unsurmountable barriers.

The total road width amounts to 32 metres. Currently, Jinja Road seems to be Kampala’s only road that is wide enough to cater for such a road design without any large-scale demolition.

All others require intelligent leadership.

Leonie Rhode is a German Landscape Architect and Environmental Planner whose Masters Thesis is a study about Kampala’s green areas (or whatever is left of it). She spent quite some time over here researching the matter and was smart enough to keep her video camera running (if the clip below doesn’t work, watch it on Youtube):

If you can download rather large documents, you can read a well-written summary of her Thesis (PDF, 5.5 Mb).

Kampalas Greens title page

Even though Leonie is currently investing her energy into an urbanistic project in Transylvania she is still following the developments in Kampala and even promised to contribute some articles to kampala.ver in the future.

In case anyone wants to discuss her stuff, post your comments below, it’s likely she’ll come back and respond.

Curitiba is a city in Southern Brazil with a population of close to two million people, a moderate climate and large areas prone to flooding. In the past, its fast population growth threatened to destroy its identity and the city faced the risk of a traffic collapse.

There is nothing else that Curitiba and Kampala have in common.

Today, Curitiba has a well-organised city administration, a highly efficient Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and therefore very little traffic congestion, massive public parks and sound social policies. In a recently conducted poll, 99% of the city population said they were happy with their city and would not want to live anywhere else. It has been called ‘the most innovative city in the world’.

Photos of Curitiba

(Photos from curitiba-parana.net and wikimedia.org)

Jaime Lerner, Architect, Urban Designer and former Mayor of Curitiba/Brazil

Architect and Urban Designer Jaime Lerner is the author of this urban design fairytale. He designed the Curitiba Master Plan which was adopted in 1968. In 1971, he became Curitiba’s Mayor and failed to be voted out of office for the next 22 years. His simple message: People are more important than cars. In ‘City of Dreams‘, a documentary by Olivia Rousset, he says: ‘If you want to make life better for people, make the cities better‘.

According to Lerner, the secret behind his concept is its simplicity. ‘We didn’t have fear of simplicity, because a city is not so complex that the complexity sellers want us to understand.

Triple-articulated bus in Curitiba, Brazil

Traffic
The core of his plan was to pedestrianise a number of streets and squares and to create five major arteries in and out of the city centre in what is called a Trinary Road System: Two one-way streets moving in opposite directions surround a two-lane street exclusively used by express buses. During rush hour, a triple-articulated (!) bus arrives every 60 seconds in either direction. Wherever you are and wherever you go within the city, you pay one fixed fare. It is a ‘subway above ground’. Two million passengers, 85% of Curitibians use this so-called Rede Integrada de Transporte every single day, and Lerner claims it is ‘one of the few systems in the world which is not subsidised. It pays by itself‘. ‘We can transport in this simple system more passengers than in a subway. The cost – 100 times or 200 times less expensive than a subway. And we can do it, we can implement a system, in less than two years.

Parks
One of Curitiba’s problems were constant floodings of the lower areas, something the city shares with Kampala. But instead of building ugly Nakivubo Channels all over the place, the city turned all those areas into parks. In fact, the whole central city is now surrounded by an enormous system of interconnected parks (and no fencing to be seen anywhere around them!). When it came to maintaining all the parks, more specifically to the cutting of all the grass, Lerner came up with another simple solution: He introduced sheep!

Garbage Collection
And another striking idea: The city hands out basic commodities to the poor in return for collecting garbage and cleaning up the city. For every five kilos of rubbish they hand in, they are given one kilo of vegetables and fruits.

In Lerner’s words:

I think there’s a lot of cities – they have incredible potential. The people – they don’t trust it’s possible to do it. If they don’t have a generous view about their cities, they won’t have a generous view about people. So if you want to make life better for people, make the cities better for people.

He has retired as Mayor and is since travelling the world’s cities as a consultant. Maybe we should invite him.