Zim transport: Use of bicycles and decongesting Harare CBD

By Bernard Musarurwa
Recently the new Minister of Energy Advocate Fortune Chasi (pictured)
suggested that the use of bicycles
could alleviate the fuel shortage in the country. But the fact is that
the use of bicycles is another venture of going-back-to-the-future in
that most suburbs, both low and high density, used to have a network of
cycle tracks linking them to industry: e.g. from Mabvuku to Msasa, and
to schools: almost all former Group A schools had cycle tracks for
students to cycle to and from school, e.g. both Marlborough High and
Marlborough Primary School have a cycle track from Harare Drive along
Sawley Way and Sherwood Avenue respectively, with another cycle track
along the entire length of Marlborough Drive; in Chinhoyi there was a
cycle track from Muzari suburb to Chinhoyi High School, complete with an
underpass under the Harare – Chirundu Road.
Unfortunately, primarily due to ineptitude and lack of appreciation,
almost all of the cycle tracks have been neglected to dereliction due to
lack of maintenance. But the cycle track network does have residual
value and it could be resuscitated fairly quickly, which move must be
complimented by traffic safety education of both the cyclists and the
motorists in order to mitigate and minimise the inevitable potential
conflict between the two modes of transport.
The use of bicycles is therefore not a new idea for Harare, and
elsewhere for that matter. In Harare, the use of bicycles just requires
the revival of the network of cycle tracks that were always an integral
part of the City master plans from the 1950’s, which plans included the
reservation of widened road servitudes for the major roads, including
Harare Drive ring road, Lomagundi Road (with a cycle track from Suffolk
Road up to Avonlea Road), Golden Stairs/ Mazowe Road, Churchill Road in
Gunhill, Airport Road in Hatfield and Bulawayo Road from Rotten Row to
The 1957 physical layout plans were used in the detailed engineering
designs for the dualisation of both the Bulawayo Road (1996), and the
Airport Road (2008), which designs included cycle tracks on both sides
that remain part of the plans for the Airport freeway that is still to
be completed, complete with grade-separation structures flyovers at all
the major 7 intersections which flyovers incorporate the cycle tracks.
The congestion in the CBD (central business district) of Harare requires
more than just accessibility by bicycles; it requires a clean, safe and
efficient public passenger transportation system (PPTS) incorporating a
regular shuttle service e.g. from the Fourth Street bus terminus to the
Market Square bus terminus using Robert Mugabe Road, on to Rotten Row,
then Samora Machel Avenue, back to Fourth Street; with pick-up/drop-off
points at strategic locations along the loop, and the buses running at a
frequency to suit the demand at any given time.
The shuttle service (PPTS) will require dedicated bus lanes giving
priority to the shuttle buses along the route.
For an efficient and professional public passenger transport service
(PPTS), there will be need to conduct a thorough feasibility study to
identify the bus routes, ranking bus stops and termini with passenger
shelters and boarding control systems, and determination of a composite
passenger vehicle fleet with a range of capacities to meet the demand on
each route at peak and off-peak periods. The PPTS must be something
bigger and better than the Harare United Omnibus Company (HUOC), the
urban predecessor of ZUPCO (the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company), to
cater for the increased population.
Along with the Fourth Street and Market Square facilities, the termini
at Rezende Street at the main post office and at Charter Road, and
elsewhere around the City, will need to be reinstated and upgraded, as
well as complimented with new ones like the one at Coventry Road,
Dieppe/Seke Road, National Sports Stadium, and elsewhere.
There is also need to resuscitate and upgrade the dysfunctional traffic
control system with a more modern computer-based one incorporating
real-time kinematic telemetry and CCTV (closed circuit television) for
more efficient, coordinated and integrated real-time traffic flow
The discourse on the shuttle system and the traffic control system was
presented in the 2016-17 Zimbabwe National Transport Master Plan
(ZNTMP), which plan continues to gather dust at the Ministry of
Transport. The author personally drafted the section on the roads sector
in the ZNTMP, which is how he knows about this. So it is nothing new,
more a case of trying to re-invent the wheel to make it more round.
Eng Bernard Musarurwa writes in his personal capacity.