Lagos Urban Network & Heinrich Bolls Foundation

On the 25th of March, 2017, the Heinrich Bolls Foundation and Lagos Urban Network organized a full day workshop on alternatives to motorized transport in Lagos State. The event at the HRDC building, University of Lagos saw the convergence of many professionals ranging across architects, planners, government officials, academics, entrepreneurs and even students.

The event was coordinated by Olamide Udoma-Ejorh (Lagos Urban Network) who opened the curtains by introducing the first speaker, Dr Tunji Adeyemo (Landscape Architecture, UNILAG), an experienced landscape architect and environmental planner that appreciates people driven and productive landscape schemes where expertise midwifes developmental initiatives through strategic planning that respects contextual bioregional resources. He spoke about mainstreaming biking on Lagos streets, ultimately asking the question, “is Lagos Bikeable?” He discussed the history of biking in Lagos and what went wrong along the timeline until now. More importantly, he proposed how to get things done right now by analysing the existing infrastructure for cycling in the city and the possibilities for a better design.

Olamide then introduced Mr. Obafemi Shitta-Bey, pioneer member of staff, Transport Economist and LAMATA’s designated Investment Champion. He presented the Lagos Non-Motorized Transport Policy draft. He explained that LAMATA play an advisory role for the Ministry of Transport which coordinates the Non-Motorized Transport Policy and are responsible for working to make a law. He also added that the draft was a product of three workshops by sectors and shareholders of the transport system in Lagos.

The audience was invited to a questioning session with Dr. Tunji Adejumo, Mr. Obafemi Shitta-Bey and a representative from the Lagos Ministry of Transport as panellists. One critical issue raised by the Slum Federation president in this session was that of spatial justice. The problem was about how increasing road sizes and creating new bike lanes in the city will impact upon the urban poor who make use of those spaces for informal trade and other activities. This was responded to from several angles, one being that public transit spaces should not be used for street trading in the first place. Another perspective was that the urban poor are important to the city and thus any NMT policy should provide spaces for them to carry out their activities in a way that will not infringe on other aspects of the city.

Damilola Teidi (CEO, Co-Founder GoMyWay) began her presentation with a video about car-sharing as a move to reduce ttraffic congestion problems in India. She then stated, ‘”YOU are the cause for traffic!” She then stressed that car-sharing has the potential to significantly contribute toward more sustainable public and non-motorized transport. She believes that as an alternative to individual car ownership, car-sharing can prepare people in the city to accept biking or public transit as their preferred means of transport.

Mr. Arthur Anthony (CEO Arthur Energy Tech), spoke about the growth of solar technology in Nigeria. He also presented some vehicles assembled to be powered by Solar Energy. He also believed that whenever Lagos introduces a Non-Motorized Transport policy, solar energy will be vital to developing the infrastructure to support the policy. Architect Papa Omotayo (Principal Architect, MOE+A) gave a detailed presentation of a cycling project he created for a site along Awolowo Road and the Ring road bridge underspace. The proposal sought to create an inviting atmosphere by creating an open access onto the underspaces, with clearly defined access into the urban underspaces also accommodating for pedestrians and cyclists to coexist within the same space.

As the workshop was nearing its conclusion, a group of students from Lagos Island presented their field study of the Lagos Island CBD, to assert the possibilities for biking in that region. They discovered that although biking is not entirely strange to the region, there are many challenges ranging across safety, convenience, access and acceptability.

Conclusively, the FESTAC group presented their project titled, “THE PLANNING PROCESS: A participatory Approach”. Their presentation showed that there were existing bicycle lanes in FESTAC community, and that whether they work well through a Knowledge-Evaluation model. They also showed the cycling master plan for FESTAC and explained in details the factors that may be altered to implement the project. Their journey so far was shown to be positive and they concluded on that note.

At the end of the workshop, the audience was grouped into two and began a discussion of the Lagos Island CBD presentation and the FESTAC cycling project. This created an opportunity for interchange of opinions and suggestions. One discussion that was opened as a result was introducing cycling to the University of Lagos campus.

Generally, the workshop showed that smart initiatives in Lagos can be brought into reality through cooperative efforts and meaningful conversations about solving our immediate problems. Additionally, it opened the minds of all in attendance to the possibilities that exist in shared ideas and critical analysis of those ideas. It is believed that the conversations that were ignited in this workshop will continue and will manifest in physical projects and influence policies that are yet to surface in Lagos State.