Malalai Joya Saturday at St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church

Stop War

Nakuru, Massia Mara, Lamu and the last day in Kenya


It is my last day in Kenya and I am trying to figure out what my take aways are from this trip. I was here with my wife and daughters to attend a conference and to visit family. We were incredibly lucky with the weather and experienced a broad range of climate zones from the lush cool air of the plateaus of Nairobi, to the dry arid landscapes of the Rift valleyat Nakuru National Park, to plains of Masai Mara and finally the humidity off coast of Kenya on the island of Lamu.

Now we are on our way back home by way of Amsterdam. We have reservations for Anne Frank Museum and are hoping to visit the Rijksmuseum and Nemo Science Museum for children.

Here are the last photos from Kenya.


Too fast, too futile: speed, time pressure and health

professorPaultoo fast slide

too fast abstract

Paul Tranter, University on New south Wales, Australian Defence Force Academy, School of Physical Environmental and Mathematical Sciences, Canberra, Australia

At the ICUH that I attend last week in Nairobi, one of the more unusual and interesting papers that I heard was by Prof. Paul Tranter. His paper was entitled “Too fast, too futile: speed, time pressure and health” where he introduced the concept of “effective speed”.

The concept of effective speed uses a mathematical formal to adjust actual speeds of vehicles by accounting for the time that it takes to earn the capital cost of any particular mode of transport. It goes some thing like this: you maybe driving along in your SUV at 50 km/hour, but it is only an illusion that you are going faster than the bike you just passed. It’s an illusion that you are going faster because you have not factored in all of
the time it took earn the money to buy the vehicles that you are traveling in.

Interestingly, the less expensive vehicles are the fastest in terms of effective speed. The fastest form of transportation is public transit as the price to use it is around $2.25 and it travels at speeds around 40 km/hour. The next fastest modes of travel are cycling and walking.

One of the more significant factors of contemporary urban living is the negative health effect of “time stress”. Increasingly we feel that we are rushing from one event to the next. Rushing to get the kids to and from school, to work, to meetings, to lunch, to shopping and then back home again. Many of us feel so stressed and rushed that we have to buy two cars to try and go faster, by splitting up the rushing between two people. We have to rush to eat fast food as we don’t have time to cook nutritious food or time to exercise.

Prof. Tranter is actually suggesting that we slow down. Don’t buy the second car and use the one you have less often. Take more time going to work if you can by walking because there are both cost savings and health benefits.

Prof. Tranter is also pointing out that the faster we are going the more energy we consume thus producing more green house gases. There are also numerous negative health affects by traveling faster, which are a result of more sedentary lifestyles: higher BMI, which is a contributing factor to diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Increased speeds have also been demonstrated to be associated with more accidents and increased risk of fatal crashes..

The paper is part of a growing body of thought that is shifting the critical evaluation of our lives from “ wealth” to “ well being”(for a larger discussion of this new tool for analyzing economic development see Anthony Giddeon’s The Politics of Climate Change). What does it matter if one makes enough money to buy an expensive car and the lifestyle that goes with it if it contributes to making one unhealthy. Increasingly, this is becoming all too common. As a society we have to shift from the notion of measuring economic growth in terms of increased GDP and start thinking of the evaluation of economic development that incorporates the well being for everyone in a society.
Effective Speed paper

Six recommendations on how to make walking and cycling safer in Nairobi

bike nairobi
Mr. Ogendi studied transportation infrastructure in the Netherlands and German and developed six recommendations on how to make walking and cycling safer in Nairobi based on what he observed in the two European countries.

Interesting enough, the measures that he recommends are similar to the ones that could potentially benefit from in Vancouver as well.

1. Better Facilities for Walking and Cycling

Build better transportation infrastructure used by pedestrians and bicyclist. On the road this would mean wide, well-lit sidewalks on both sides of every street. The current situation in Nairobi is that only the road surface for cars is paved and the ground on either side of the road is unsurfaced. Vehicles regularly leave the paved road and take over pedestrian space to try to get around traffic. Especially with the Matatus, which are privately owned minibuses and are the most commonly used transportation by ordinary folks. Moreover, Mr. Odendi’s recommends a host of measures to improve the experience of pedestrians and cyclist which include the following: care free zones in the city centre, refuge islands for crossing wide streets, raised clearly marked zebra crosswalks with special lighting for visibility, pedestrian activated cross signals both at intersections and mid-block crosswalks. Continue reading Six recommendations on how to make walking and cycling safer in Nairobi →

Rift Valley and Lake Nakuru National Park

rift valley
images on flickr

My partner, Anita, and I are in Nairobi to attend the International Conference on Urban Health (ICUH). Anita’s brother and wife live in Nairobi so we brought the whole family, including our two daughters and Anita’s parents are here as well. It has been an opportunity for all of us to spend time together and to also experience Kenya. The ICUH last day was on Friday, October 24 and my brother in-law has arrange for us to take a weekend trip to Lake Nakuru National part, which is about a four hour drive west of Nairobi.

Nairobi is 1680 m above sea level and the air is a little thin, but it is cool, lush and not very many mosquitos making the risk of malaria low. As we drove out of Nairobi we saw some of the informal settlements (slums is the non-political term) that are big population growth areas. People moving from the rural areas for economic opportunity or to escape some other life end up living in these informal settlements where the housing is made up of whatever people can lay there hands on. There are 2 million people living in informal settlements in Nairobi and these are the fastest growing areas in the city.(amnesty international report If the streets of Nairobi are clogged with cars, it is not due to the residents who live in the informal settlements. The millions of residents who live there are pedestrians out of necessity.

Nairobi is on a lush cool plateau. Just as we were getting over the excitement of the sites afforded by the Kenyan highways, we came to the edge of the Rift Valley, which is a spectacular site. This huge valley is thought to be the cradle of mankind. When gazing down the valley, I saw how rich and diverse the wildlife is in this area. This is the valley of the Masai people.wikipedia .

Along the road we saw camps of internally displace people (IDP) who had to flee violence after the election in 2007 and still have not been resettled. The issue of IDP is crisis that African Union is grappling with. According to The East African, a weekly publication that reports on the East African region, 11 million of the worlds 25 million IDP are in African. There are 400,000 IDP in Kenya even two years after the post election violence. Internal displament monitoring centre

If the magnitude of social problems in Kenya is great it is matched by the stunning beauty of geography and the warmthand friendliness of the people. When one gets away from the city the people are so friendly. We went to Nakuru Lake National Park.
Wekipedia on Nakuru

Never in my life did I think that I would ever make it to Africa to go on a safari. I have watched my fair share of TV shows about wildlife in Africa, but it has never been a burning passion to come here and see the animals. After going out to the Nakuru National Park I am stunned. Just the richness and diversity of animals is unbelievable. Riding around in the big jeeps in the parks was a treat and one understands what these vehicles are for and what a joke it is that folks are driving these vehicles around in the Vancouver.

Improving the safety for pedestrian and cyclist in Nairobi

Images from Nairobi Kenya 23 October 2009

road allocation

more images

Improving safety of pedestrians and bicyclists in Nairobi: Japheths Ogendi, part one

Mr. Japheths Ogendi

Nairobi Friday 23 October 2009

I am really surprised at what a transportation geek I morphed into. I have been in Nairobi four days now and with what little I have seen it is stunning. I still have not got my head around the fact that I am actually here.

The smells, the sounds, the light are a treat. The air smells of musty red clay combined with the scent of the flowers with a little tinge of wood smoke. I am sitting out on a patio listening to all the birds as the sun sets and there are few white clouds against the blue sky and I can see the changing colour of clouds as the sun is setting.

The whole car thing here has really bothered me since we arrived. I was trying to be respectful, not being too judgmental about it and trying to understand it, but all the accumulation experiences of cab rides are starting to inform a perception of Nairobi. Continue reading Improving safety of pedestrians and bicyclists in Nairobi: Japheths Ogendi, part one →

Jim Cab ride in Nairobi

Matatu, gridlock, diesel fumes, Nairobi’s built environment and the 8 Millennium Development Goals


more images

First full day in Nairobi and still jet lagged. They have not had rain in here for over a year and last week they got a welcomed downpour. The city has come alive with hues of green and orange clay. There is a pleasant musty smell in the air.

Ravi, my brother in-law arranged for Anita and me to take a “Jim cab” to the conference (ICUH). It is a more secure company than some of the other taxi companies and security is an issue here. I wanted to take some photos out the car’s window but was advised that this would be unwise; there is chance the camera could be grabbed from the open window. Anyways, I captured some images from inside the car.

The roads are clogged with cars. There are a handful of pedestrians on the roadside, but most are waiting for Matatus. Matatus are commuter vans that hold around 8 passengers, although some seemed packed beyond capacity. The name Matatus is from back in the day when it cost only 3 schillings for a ride. The drivers of Matatus are notorious with the other divers for their risky driving practices.
story about matatus and pop culture.

The roads are busy with vendors selling flowers and newspapers with pedestrians crossing where they can, however, the main users of the roads are cars and the matatus. I did see a couple of bikes. The musty smell of the wet clay soon gave way to the suffocating reek of diesel fumes. Continue reading Matatu, gridlock, diesel fumes, Nairobi’s built environment and the 8 Millennium Development Goals →