Press Release: Improving the walkability of stations would quickly reduce emissions, improve safety and make Cairo a more healthy and sustainable city

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A new report on pedestrian safety, comfort and accessibility, published today – Transport Day at COP28 – highlights a quick and affordable win for the city of Cairo, Egypt to increase public transit ridership, reduce transport emissions, and improve the health and sustainability of the city.

Using the new Walkability App, more than a thousand users were asked to share their walking experiences around 8 stations in inner city and suburban Cairo. Their reports reveal the everyday challenges that make active and public transport in Cairo often unattractive, difficult and at times dangerous. Analysis of the data provides an insight as to what actions need to be taken by authorities to better support those already walking and using public transport, and potentially entice more drivers out of their cars too.

Key findings from the research, led by a partnership of Walk21 Foundation, Transport for Cairo, NADA and with the support of Alstom, include: 

    • Only 35% of women and 40% of men reported positive walking experiences in Inner City areas, while in Outer City areas, only 39% of women and 31% reported positive walking experiences. The most commonly and negatively reported environmental factor in both inner and outer city areas is the “insufficient space and poor path quality.”
    • The large distances between destinations, higher traffic speeds and lack of accessible pedestrian infrastructure in the suburban, low rise New Urban Communities makes active and public transport undesirable and often not feasible. 
    • In contrast, people are much more likely to walk and use public transport in the dense, mixed use areas of inner city Cairo, where there are more walkable paths, less priority given to cars, and lower traffic speeds. Except for women who perceive walkability more negatively than men in Inner city areas.
    • The attractiveness of active and public transport changes with time of day in Cairo. Women perceive the safety of active and public transport to be five times better in the morning than in the evening.
    • The attractiveness of public transport changes with age and ability in Cairo. Teenagers experience public spaces more negatively than adults, and older people and those with disabilities report being disproportionately disadvantaged by the poor walkability, particularly in suburban Cairo.

These findings provide an opportunity for the authorities to respond with targeted actions to improve the walkability in the proximity of stations, reduce single occupant vehicle commuting, increase public transit ridership numbers, and improve the efficiency of the mobility system overall. The recommendations in the report include improvements to infrastructure and land-use planning, new campaigns targeting driver behaviour and capacity building to improve safety, comfort and accessibility.

Report Recommendations:

    1. Create more paths and make them wider, accessible, unobstructed and continuous throughout Cairo.
    2. Install more and safer at-grade road crossings as well as other traffic calming measures like speed bumps, raised crossings to guarantee the safe crossing of pedestrians while promoting safe speeds especially in the Downtown area.
    3. Implement Pedestrian Only or Pedestrian-Friendly Zones, restricting vehicular access during specific hours whenever feasible, to reduce pollution and give more priority to people walking especially in Downtown Cairo.
    4. Add more lighting to improve perception of security and increase security to reduce harassment near stations particularly in the evening off-peak period – between 7pm and 10pm.
    5. Protect pedestrians from the weather, by planting more trees on footpaths to provide shade for example, especially in the suburbs.
    6. Target better driver behaviour to give priority to pedestrians throughout Cairo.
    7. Establish and enforce safe speed limits throughout Cairo considering the use and function of each road. 
    8. Allocate more road space for pedestrians and create Dedicated Vending Zones and licence vendors to meet regulations and adopt a zero-tolerance policy for temporary and permanent obstructions that force pedestrians onto the carriageway.  
    9. Develop pedestrian design standards for enhancing public transport catchments.
    10. Adopt the Walkability App as a practical tool to engage citizens, target responses and evaluate the impact of actions.  
    11. Provide low-interest loans to small enterprises and commercial property owners to encourage enhancement of the overall streetscape.
    12. Give more priority to active and public transport and improve the coordination between government agencies and civil society.

Bronwen Thornton, CEO of Walk21 said:

“The quality of the walkability to public transit stations and stops is crucial to encourage people to use public transport. Making the walking conditions safe, accessible and attractive is not only good for the 61% of trips in Cairo that are already using these modes but is likely to also help shift 7- 15% of single occupant vehicle commuters to transit too. This would help the city reduce congestion and association emissions rapidly and increase the efficiency of the mobility system overall. The Walkability App transforms abstract challenges into tangible, evidence-based actions, enabling precise solutions”.

Mohamed Hegazy, Director and Principle of Transport for Cairo said:  

As Egypt embarks on its biggest public transport investment spree in a generation, it’s vital that citizens can walk and cycle to and from the new rail, metro, monorail and BRT stations. What better way to decide where to invest limited resources than to ask the users themselves on which routes they use and which are in most need? This report innovates in putting the community at the heart of proposing transport investments, increasing adaptation and resilience of roads for its most active users: today’s commuters and tomorrow’s public transport users”.

Cecile Texier, Vice President of Sustainable Development at Alstom said

“The Walkability App is proving a useful tool bringing a conversation between citizens and their governments to understand what to do where to improve the safety, accessibility and comfort of active and public transport users. Investments that respond to where concerns have been reported will help create healthier, more sustainable urban environments, benefiting both residents and the planet”.  

Additional Notes

The Walkability App is a mobile phone application participatory mapping tool. It allows people to share how they feel when they walk by reporting both positive and negative experiences. The app is an effective tool for enabling citizens of any age, gender or ability, to share their walking experiences. The Walkability.App is freely available in the Apple Store and Google Play Store and is available in English, Arabic, German, Swedish, Albanian and Spanish.

Walk21 Foundation is a charity registered in the United Kingdom that works internationally to support everyone’s right to walk in a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment by providing evidence, tools, training and accreditation to a global network of concerned communities, politicians, academics and practitioners.  Walk21 helps make cities more walkable to increase access to basic services; enhance road safety and public health; improve gender equality; and ensure accessible, equitable, sustainable transport systems. 

Alstom is supporting Walk21 Foundation with the development of the Walkability App and its practical application in several countries around the world to benefit active and public transport users.

Alstom develops and markets integrated systems that provide the sustainable foundations for the future of transportation. Alstom’s products portfolio ranges from high-speed trains, metros, monorails and trams to integrated systems, customised services, infrastructure, signalling and digital mobility solutions.

Transport for Cairo coordinated the research in Cairo at 8 stations, selected as having the highest onboarding and alighting user numbers in both inner and outer city contexts. The outer stations: Al-Horsary, 6th of October; Ordoneya Terminal,10th of Ramadan; Gas Terminal, South 90th Road, Fifth settlement; and, 6th District, 6th of October.  The Downtown Cairo stations: Alf Maskan Square, Gear AAl Suez, Heliopolis; Adly Street, Azbakeya, Downtown; Bab El Khalk, Moski, Old Cairo; and, Ramses Train Station, El Fagala. 

Six Field Researchers, who worked for four consecutive days during September 2023. Each pair of researchers audited a single location during peak hours (7am – 10am; 3.30pm – 6.30pm and 7pm – 10pm), gathering a total of 1,335 user-perception responses from the 8 areas (approximately 166 people per study area). 

Transport for Cairo is a strategic advisory practice specialised in sustainable urban mobility, established in Egypt in 2015. Their work covers all mobility and transport modes including formal rail and bus passenger services, informal services, shared mobility, micro mobility and active travel. 

NADA Foundation coordinated a public seminar to discuss the report on 7th October 2023 titled “Unlocking the Potential of Walkability in the Greater Cairo Region: Insights from the Walkability App crowd-sourced data.” Representatives from civil society organisations, academics with backgrounds in urban planning and architecture attended. 

The Nada Foundation is an Egyptian non-profit organisation that was established in 2014 to promote a safer, more inclusive, and sustainable mobility through evidence-based solutions. We empower road users, advocate for a swift transition to clean transportation, and strive to create communities that are walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly.

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