High Volume Transport

Vital transport research to ensure accessible, affordable and climate friendly transport for all.

Applying the principles of COVID-19 emergency bicycle-lanes to Sub-Saharan African cities


This study investigated how the concept of pop-up bicycle infrastructure could potentially be applied to user-led bicycle mobility interventions in cities in Sub-Saharan African cities.

Potential impact

Demonstration of priority bicycle routes through temporary interventions before resources are committed to a final project.

COVID-19 Challenge
In cities of Sub-Saharan Africa, transport responses post-COVID-19 lockdown mainly focused on public transport. Requirements for physical distancing reduced capacity and led to increased congestion. An option to overcome these restrictions on public transport may be pop-up bike lanes because they offer safer, active and low-carbon travel.
This study moved beyond the immediacy of COVID-19 response and recovery to understand how the concept of pop-up bicycle infrastructure, which was developed during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, Europe and USA, could potentially be applied to user-led bicycle mobility interventions in cities in Sub-Saharan African cities.

A literature review was carried out on bicycle promotion in low-cycling countries, and bicycle master planning and network design. This led to the conclusion that a network development approach was most appropriate that includes the principles of transport justice/inclusion and accessibility in older cities where space is a serious restriction.
To determine routes and understand the challenges and barriers in planning and implementing flexible interventions, stakeholders were engaged in the public sector, bicycle commuters, and civil society organisations in the three case cities – Cape Town, Nairobi and Kampala. Responses were assessed to identify preferred routes.
In Cape Town, in-depth interviews were conducted with ten individuals, and on route-mapping exercises that together represented input of more than 100 bicycle commuters. In addition to individual interviews (five per city), online questionnaires were completed by 146 stakeholders in Nairobi and 129 in Kampala.
Transport policy and strategy were reviewed to determine whether there is an enabling environment and what are the stumbling blocks in case cities to installing temporary interventions.

In the cities where pop-up infrastructure has been developed, cycling had higher levels of acceptability and higher mode shares. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the focus was on providing access to safer mobility using the most popular mode, not promoting a new mode. COVID-19 interventions were emergency not visionary responses.
The study findings suggest that pop-up infrastructure based on user-needs could draw attention to measures that are lighter, quicker, and cheaper to implement, and that can be trialled and quickly re-allocated or moved if they have unintended adverse impacts, or could be better implemented elsewhere.
When the focus is on current users ahead of attracting new users, the high cost of marketing and persuasion is reduced and an increase in cycling on one route is likely to raise awareness and contribute to increase cycling.