'Transportation Colonialism' and Inequality

(c) David Mozer and Njagi Gakungi, 1989. Republished by Permission
Bicyclists and Motorist in post-independence Nairobi
David Mozer and Njagi Gakungi, 1989. Republished by Permission

Before coming to Madagascar I spent a lot of time organizing my storage unit – and getting pulled into the kind of distracted, time-consuming reminiscing that happens whenever I get near all my old junk.

I came across this booklet: “Transportation Patterns in Nairobi & Programs to Improve Opportunities for Bicycling [PDF]” published by the International Bicycle Fund in 1989.

Ted's Peace Corps/Cameroon Memorabilia
Raffia bags… gourd shakers… plastic loafers… Well, well, well… What do we have here?

I sent away for this booklet more than 20 years ago, the last time I was preparing to go live in Africa. And I’ll be damned if it doesn’t read like a laundry list of all my favorite bike advocacy topics – except I’m usually writing about cycling in the United States of America.

Here are some highlights:

Transportation Patterns in Nairobi - p15
It’s like Nostradamus foretelling the age of bike blogs

And they’re not just my pet topics:

But the conversation that doesn’t get nearly enough attention from popular bike blogs is the extent to which infrastructure choices affect and exacerbate inequality within a society.

Transportation Patterns in Nairobi - p6
Sound familiar?

If I didn’t know that Mozer and Gakungi were writing about Nairobi in 1989, I could easily believe that this content is about any major American city – today.

Public works projects that impact mobility impact the poor most of all – for better or worse. Taxes, subsidies, and urban planning that privilege and incentivize automobile use amount to “transportation colonialism” – even in developed countries. They increase inequality between the rich and poor.

Transportation Patterns in Nairobi - p's 16-17
As opposed to, “Get off my road!”

And this is not some Maoist, tree-hugging, bike loving, propaganda. It’s recommendations for making an urban area work for everyone – not just for the richest citizens of a country.

You can’t get much more free-market than, “Motorists need to pay the real cost of driving?”

That one prescription would drive more changes in transportation policy than all the pleading bike advocates have ever done.

I’ve been saying stuff like this for years – just not for as many years as Mozer and Gakungi have been saying it.

Blog Action Day

Thanks to David Mozer for permission to republish “Transportation Patterns in Nairobi & Programs to Improve Opportunities for Bicycling [PDF]“.

Ted Johnson is a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Follow his hardly-ever-about-bikes blogging at Half-Hearted Fanatic, and tweeting at @TedJohnsonIII. Note that the opinions expressed here by Ted Johnson are solely his own and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

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