Deciphering “Inclusive” Views through Participatory Mapping

African cities exhibit visible differentiations in terms of their social, economic and demographic composition.  These differentiations have given rise to the common use of the term ‘Inclusivity’ in planning, community and policy discussions where it is often used to solidify (or ‘seem’ to solidify) agendas of rights for vulnerable groups in the society.

In the development arena, the pretext is very familiar, often with catchphrases such as:

  •   ‘The New Urban Agenda commits to addressing global inequality through inclusive urbanism”,
  •   ”inclusive cities allow everyone to participate equally”
  •  “ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity through inclusivity ”’
  •   ”We need to make sure city’s development is inclusive”…

While all these have an element of truth, often, they deviate attention from the real issues. Working on the ground it is easy to realise why there is a need to address inclusion effectively. Experience has taught us that inclusion works best when it addresses specific urban challenges, rather than a broad policy.

One method of ensuring inclusivity is participation. It is with this knowledge that in September, the I-CMiiST team took to the streets to engage the road users in mapping out their experiences when using Ring Road Kilimani. The activity attracted an array of road users, albeit some were curious onlookers just wanting to catch a glimpse of the map and the activity.

After orienting the public on the map on display, and seeking permissions from interested parties, the team used both English and Swahili to request participation;

Could you please take a minute or two to map out the areas of comfort and discomfort around Ring Road Kilimani?” “Place a blue sticker in the areas you feel uncomfortable using, and yellow sticker in the areas which you feel are very comfortable.”

Mapping preferred street locations at Kilimani Junction, Nairobi
Mapping preferred street locations at Kilimani Junction, Nairobi

The majority of the street users wanted clarification on what exactly defines comfort or discomfort. These were perceived as issues relating to: safety, security, ease of access, availability of facilities, as well as friendliness to women, children and persons with disabilities.

Interestingly, the views varied depending on the type of road users. Pedestrians preferred areas that had adequate facilities like walkways; places that had more human traffic; well-lit areas; and crossings with traffic lights.

Good crossing facilities are preferred by pedestrians

Some motorcycle taxi riders showed a preference for the Yaya junction area, while others preferred the area opposite Yaya Centre. This was because it gave them more visibility to potential customers.

Areas that are congested with Public Service Vehicles (PSV) stages were identified as being risky by the pedestrians (see below). Whereas, the stretch from Yaya Junction towards Kileleshwa was the most preferred by pedestrians, mainly due to provision of pedestrian walkways.

PSV Stage, Kilimani,junction Nairobi
Busy PSV Stage – these were considered to be dangerous places for pedestrians

By Constant Cap (African City Planner Blogger)

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