A bicycle from a Nairobi slum is to be displayed permanently at the United Headquarters in New York as the global body moves to highlight the benefits of cycling as a sustainable means of urban transport.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attends bike event to promote sustainable transport © UN Photo/JC McIlwaine
The decision was reached after United Nations officials, diplomats and members of civil society organizations took part in a bike ride in New York City last Friday to popularize the use of bicycle in world's urban centers.
UN-Habitat, the world body in charge of cities facilitated the presentation of the bicycle from the Kariobangi slums in Nairobi. The bicycle was presented to the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by Kenya's ambassador to the United Nations Mr. Macharia Kamau.
"I would much rather see bicycles and bike-riders around here than the limousines, armoured SUVs and other gas-guzzling cars that we all use at the United Nations!" Mr. Ban told the ride's participants, who rode from the Organization's Headquarters to the offices of the Netherlands Mission to the UN, which organized the event.
In the run-up to the Rio +20 earth summit on sustaible development, transport is a key component of the Secretary-General's action agenda, and the slum bike highlights the role greener cities can play in reducing their environmental footprint in a world where today half of humanity lives in towns and cities, more than an estimated 1 billion of them in slums and poor inner city neighbourhoods.
In recent years, bike sharing schemes have increased in popularity and have successfully been implemented in major cities around the world including Paris, London, Beijing, Mexico City, Montreal and Tel Aviv, among others. New York is scheduled to launch its own bike share programme next month.
UN-Habitat's Executive Director Dr Joan Clos promotes the use of bicycles in cities around the world. In Kenya, bicycles are important in that upto some 70 percent of urban dwellers either walk or ride bicycles to work and other engagements. Known as 'Boad-Boda' the bicycles taxis are being promoted by UN-Habitat as an alternative means of transport.
The name was came about when they first appeared at the Kenya-Ugandan border town of Busia and the operators would shout 'Border to Border' in touting for customers.
"The 'Boda-Boda cycle taxis in Africa provide an example of a people's innovation that can simultaneously provide transport services while generating an income for the poor. Very popular in Kenya and Uganda boda-bodas are bicycles which have been modified for strength and durability, and are used for transporting passengers and goods," Dr. Clos said.
Mr. Ban added: "Bicycles are important, but they are just part of a bigger picture: our global efforts to achieve truly sustainable development. Our challenge is to get the world to use renewable energy to power our trains, planes, buses and boats. This is especially important for cities."
Mr. Ban's remarks came as UN-Habitat this week prepared to take its global "I'm a City Changer" movement to the beaches and the streets of Rio de Janeiro as it gears up to ensure the global urban agenda is high at the Rio +20 earth summit.
With half of humanity living in cities around the world, UN-Habitat, the city agency of the United Nations, is making the case for the urban environment to ensure that more and more cities and partners join its World Urban Campaign for better cities.
In the build-up to the earth summit this week, Metropolis, the metropolitan section of United Cities Local Government (UCLG), signed up to UN-Habitat's global "I'm a City Changer" campaign.
The agency will be represented at the high level in Rio de Janeiro by Dr. Clos.