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Adefolake Adekola: The Positive Impacts of Non-Motorized Transport in Nigeria

Adefolake Adekola



I remember while in school, the distance between the hall of residence to the lecture hall was only a short distance (about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how fast or slow one is walking). Yet my friends and I preferred to wait for the shuttle bus (which took 15 minutes before it arrived and we usually had to wait until it got full before leaving). In hindsight, I realise we could have made do with the exercise and the bonding with friends rather than sit on a bus and wait endlessly for it to get full.

Going to the United Kingdom, having to walk 20 to 30 minutes from my college building to my apartment did not seem like much of a stretch. Everyone was doing it. It was a way of life: the rich, the poor and the middle class all enjoyed walking or cycling to their various destinations. I realized I was healthier, looking fresh, saving money and most importantly burning calories.

Non-Motorized Transport, also called Human Powered Transportation and popularly referred to as NMT, is a mode of transportation for relatively short distances. This includes cycling, walking and the usage of small-wheeled transports such as scooters, hand carts, wheelchairs and skateboards.

According to Witting et al. (2006), short distance trips are the largest share of trips in urban cities, usually within 7 Kilometers. In Bogotá, Colombia, they have NMT policies that promote walking and cycling. In developing countries, NMT should be used more, but that is not the case. It is often seen as a means of transport for the poor and less privileged. Our excuse in Nigeria is often the poor road networks and transportation systems, which is justifiable, but we are still in the habit of taking motorized transports on the shortest of distances.

Developed countries are more in the habit of walking, cycling and using other means of NMT for various reasons. Some for exercise, others for financial constraints, nice weather, bonding with friends, tourism and many other reasons. According to the Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI, 2010), 5-10% of car trips can be replaced by NMTs provided there are good policies in place to back up the pedestrians and cyclists.

Marianne, V. et al. (2017) emphasized that although walking is the dominant mode of transportation in Africa, it has not been given enough attention in terms of policy development and practical implementation. We as a people are focused on increasing motorization and expanding road networks. There are some barriers affecting NMT in Nigeria:

  1. Safety & Security
    This is the biggest issue we face as a country as regards to NMT. Pedestrians and cyclists are vulnerable to roadside accidents. Inadequate NMT planning causes a high rate of pedestrian fatalities. Lack of guarantee of the safety and security of the pedestrians and cyclist is also a huge barrier.
  2. Cost
    For bicycles, the low-income earners cannot afford to purchase a bicycle/scooter.
  3. Public Perception
    The high-income earners who have the environment (provision of sidewalks) suitable for walking and the means to buy a bicycle usually do not because they do not want to be perceived as poor. Even students in Nigeria who live within campus drive to lectures because having a car shows class and affluence.
  4. Lack of NMT Infrastructure
    Developed countries have bicycle racking systems which enable them store their bicycles when not in use. There are sidewalks, walkways, zebra crossings, etc. There are only a few cycle lanes and designs for pedestrians on Nigerian roads.

Health, Environment, Social and Economic Benefits of NMT


  1. The exercise that comes with using NMTs reduce chances of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
  2. Reduces chances of obesity.
  3. Reduces the risk of chronic diseases.
  4. Encourages physical activity which aids:

Weight loss.
Relaxation and sleep quality.
Brain health and memory.
Mood (makes one happier).


  1. Greenhouse gas emission reduction (NMT does not emit GHG).
  2. Improves air quality.
  3. Noise pollution reduction.
  4. Energy conversation.
  5. Helps in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (goal 3, 7 & 11).
  6. Improved climate change.
  7. Reduces traffic.
  8. Sustainable transport.

Social and Economic:

  1. Increases productivity.
  2. Improved quality of life.
  3. Poverty reduction.
  4. Social equality.
  5. Urban development.
  6. Cheap, fast, easy and flexible.
  7. Suitable for car-free zones.
  8. Improved mobility for non-drivers.
  9. Improved independent child mobility (children walking to school).

Ways to improve NMT in Nigeria

  1. Vehicle parking policies.
  2. Develop pedestrian sidewalks and bicycle lanes.
  3. Bicycle integration into transit systems (in schools especially).
  4. Taxes for fuel would encourage NMT.
  5. Improve road designs and path connectivity.
  6. Awareness campaign.
  7. Smart urban planning.
  8. Implementation of already existing NMT policies.
  • Connection of public transport with walking and cycling facilities.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Adefolake Adekola is an Environmental and Social Development Specialist. She is currently the Social Safeguard Consultant on a World Bank Assisted Project (Community and Social Development Project) across 30 states. Her experience spans across different sectors as she has worked both in the Public and Private sector. She has a Masters’ degree in Environmental Assessment and Management and hold numerous certifications. She is also an Independent Consultant for top companies in Nigeria and has work experience in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. She is the author of a book titled “Functioning in the knowledge of who you are” and a website where she talks about everything and anything She loves to watch series when she is less busy and write articles based on extensive research.


  1. Aare farmland

    December 4, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    I think we are just catching on with jogging/walking. Even though the infrastructure is not there, it was not really in vogue years ago. I grew up in a serene environment were adults did not jog or walk. Some estates in lagos have a steady group of joggers within the estate. They do not go beyond because of security reasons.

  2. Pink

    December 4, 2018 at 8:41 pm

    Great article. We face the same challenges in Kenya. Pedestrians are not considered in the building of highways and roads which discourages walking and also makes it unsafe for them. A majority of the population do not own cars. It is also perceived that walking is for the poor while driving is for the rich. Just yesterday, the Nairobi Governor banned public transport from entering the central business district which led to crowds of people walking into town. There were people walking on the roads and even bridges could not accommodate the crowds moving in opposite directions. The ban was lifted today. Our infrastructure is centered of vehicles without pedestrians in mind.

  3. Abdul

    December 5, 2018 at 11:30 am

    This is brilliant observation Adefolake, The Lagos State Government should adopt the NMT policy and shift the paradigm to building more foot paths and less Highways. This will promote healthy living and a better environment which in turn will translate to a general increase in the overall standard of living in the world today.

  4. Suanu

    December 7, 2018 at 11:47 am

    Beautiful write-up Folake, In my opinion the major drawback faced by NMT development in Africa is more of a cultural/social thing. Like you rightly pointed out the perception that only the poor walk or cycle makes it difficult for those in positions of Authority to relate with pedestrians or cyclists. This in turn makes it difficult for them to provide the adequate NMT infrastructure necessary to encourage more people to join this active mode of transportation. In most developed countries, NMT is seen as something knowledgeable and health conscious people do and as such, the government encourage others by giving priority to this mode of transport which has been proven to have so many heath and environmental benefits.

    Moving forward, I would advice that we first change our mentality to NMT usage as this would propel policies aimed at encouraging its use. Building pedestrian or cycle lanes should be done as a network with all roads linking together. You should NOT build cycle lanes in a particular area without thinking of how people that use this facility would fit into the larger network. For instance, around Victoria Island in Lagos we have a couple of roads with Pedestrian and Cycle lanes, Why don’t people use it??. NMT infrastructure should be designed with Origin-Destination of its potential users in mind. Where are people around this area going to?, what are the nature of their trips?.

    Before I forget one very important factor that we seem not to always take into consideration when pushing for NMT schemes in Africa is our harsh climate. In most of these developed countries we keep trying to imitate, the weather is cold and NMT especially cycling is seen as a way to keep the body warm. Now when designing this same schemes for African climates, we forget to provide trees to shed people. How do you expect someone to walk or cycle on a road with a scorching temperature of about 30 degrees celcius when they are not mad?

    These are what we would need to consider when building and encouraging NMT schemes in Africa. Because at the end of the day, we all want to be comfortable.

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