Kigali Car Free Day is a twice monthly event held on the first and third Sunday of every month. On this day, several roads are blocked off for people to walk, run or cycle freely without interference from motorbikes or vehicles.
When you first move to Kigali, you might be unprepared for Car Free Day, and get your plans thwarted when you encounter road blockades. You might even need to turn back, or if on a motorbike, get off and walk the rest of the way to your destination.
So, to save you any inconveniences or shocks, and to help you make the most of the day, I wrote this quick guide. It will take you through the history of Kigali Car Free and help you know what to expect each Car Free Day Sunday.
History of Kigali Car Free Day
Kigali Car Free Day was started in 2016 as part of Rwanda’s efforts to make Kigali a more environmentally sustainable city. On this day, motorists are encouraged to ditch their vehicles and motorbikes for more environmentally friendly transport, like cycling and walking.
Organized and run by the City of Kigali, the Car Free Day started out only once a month back in 2016. However, it gained a lot of popularity, with multitudes attending, including government officials and Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame. A year later, in 2017, the City of Kigali turned Kigali Car Free Day into a fortnightly event, which has remained to this day.
What Happens on Kigali Car Free Day?
From its history, we’ve seen that Kigali Car Free Day’s purpose is to encourage sustainable living in the city. But that’s not the only thing that’s encouraged on this day.
The Car Free Day has also become a time to advocate for healthier living through exercising and getting frequent health checkups. So you’ll find several mobile clinics offering free medical checkups along the designated roads.
Apart from the medical checkups, participants also take part in walking, jogging, cycling, another encouragement of healthy living through exercise all along the designated roads. The activities of Kigali Car Free Day are quite similar to what you’d find at a fun run charity event elsewhere in the world, only that you don’t need to sign up to participate. You can simply show up and join in.
And because the designated roads are fully pedestrian zones, you can bring your children to cycle or walk with you without worrying about oncoming traffic.
Now let’s look at the dates and timings of the event.
When is Kigali Car Free Day?
Kigali Car Free Day happens every first and third Sunday of the month. It isn’t a full-day event; it only lasts three hours, between 7 am and 10 am. That means you can comfortably join other attendees in a walk, jog, or exercise session in the morning and get back to your usual routine for the rest of the day.
Officially, the event kicks off at 7 am in two areas: Imbuga City Walk, a car-free zone in the Central Business District, and Amahoro National Stadium in Remera.
Where does Kigali Car Free Day Happen?
If you’ve been worried that you will be completely immobile for that three hour morning period on Kigali Car Free Day, let me assure you that you won’t. Some roads are still functional and allow vehicles to pass on Car Free Day.
Only one long stretch of road (about 10 kilometres) is closed off for the Car Free Day event, starting from the Car Free Zone, Imbuga City Walk, at the city center along Rwanda Revenue Authority(RRA) offices in Kimihurura and to Amahoro National Stadium in Remera.
While the stretch of road that’s closed off during the event includes major streets, you can work your way around those streets to get to where you’re going. For instance, I’ve found that motorbike taxis can take you all the way to the road blockades, and you can walk to the next blockade to take another motorbike taxi.
How to Join Kigali Car Free Day
It’s really simple: just arrive at the designated Car Free areas and enter.
You can walk around freely or follow the designated routes. It’s up to you.
Kigali Car Free Day Map
Source: City of Kigali Twitter
Kigali Car Free Zones
One of the start points for Kigali Car Free Day is a permanently car free zone. And it’s not the only car-free area in Kigali. There are a few other streets that have been designated as car free zones by the City of Kigali. This means that only pedestrians and people on bicycles are allowed on those streets.
Each of them also has some interesting offerings that are worth noting. Let’s have a look at them:
- Imbuga City Walk – Located in Kigali Central Business District (CBD), the zone includes benches to lounge around on, paved walkways and cycling lanes, and kiosks selling food, art, and crafty items like beaded jewelry.
- Biryogo Car Free Food Street – Lined with roadside eateries, Biryogo Car Free Food Street is located just 15-minutes from Kigali CBD and marks the beginning of Nyamirambo, a lively neighborhood. You’ll find coffee shops, restaurants, and other small businesses here, next to beautified colorful roads with no vehicles passing. It’s especially popular for green tea and brochettes and does not serve alcohol.
- Kisimenti Car Free Zone – The road behind Equity Bank in Gisimenti becomes a car-free zone over the weekends. You’ll find bars, clubs, and restaurants lining the street. And over the weekends, there are multiple seating spaces right in the middle of the road to enjoy some relaxed afternoons and fun evenings filled with music and dance.
Kigali Car Free Day has become an incredibly popular event for people living in Kigali that everyone should experience at least once. Take some time to join others in a day of exercising and spending some time in a temporarily car-free zone.
After your morning exercise, feel free to grab some breakfast or brunch from one of the best restaurants in Kigali.