The German city of Hamburg is developing a plan to become ca-rfree over the next two decades. This will be achieved through a network of interconnected parks, playgrounds, sports fields, allotments and cemeteries (gruenes netz) which will link up to enable people to walk or cycle safely to most parts of the city.
Green networks in Hamburg, congestion charges in London and cycle superhighways in Copenhagen suggest that the car is no longer being seen as a viable means of transport in the future and that more sustainable systems are being sought.
Can the green network model be applied to African cities? The answer is that there already numerous 'brown networks' of paths that people use to walk between points in many cities and villages. These are informal routes; between buildings, besides rivers and through unused parts of the city. These are muddy in wet weather and can be narrow, overgrown and dangerous.
Formalizing these routes could make a significant improvement to urban mobility and would not be expensive. Obstacles could be removed and routes could be made wider and more even. Solar lighting and the strategic location of small stalls (spazas) for passing trade could be used to improve safety and support small businesses. Dedicated pedestrian routes away from roads would supplement public transports networks and reduce accidents caused by people walking along roads. The development and maintenance work involved in these routes could also be easily carried out by unemployed trainees (on Expanded Public Works or Tshepo10,000 programmes), creating employment.
Therefore, greening the brown route networks of African cities may be a sensible alternative to the ongoing, and increasing expenditure, on roads, especially as leading world cities appear to be giving up on the car.
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