A Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, FUTA, Professor Eno Okoko has recommended the use of bicycles for short trips by the commuting population in Nigerian cities.
He made this recommendation while delivering the 98th Inaugural Lecture of the University titled Spatial Interaction: The Quintessence of Urban Mobility. Okoko said bicycle as a mode of transportation for short trips is energy efficient, non-polluting and environment friendly.
He said “because of its flexibility and ability to render door-to-door services in towns where the road condition does not permit an efficient operation of taxi or bus services and its ability to beat long queues of vehicle on roads where the traffic situation is chaotic, bicycles have advantages over other modes of para-transit transport even in terms of travel time.”
Professor Okoko also called on governments and road builders to henceforth include bikeways in urban road designs as is the case in other countries.
He cited examples of London, New York and San Francisco where network of bicycle lanes are expanded to accommodate its usage. Citing further examples, like Venice and Mdina in Malta where motorised transport is not allowed inside the city, he encouraged Nigeria to follow suit because a sizeable proportion of the urban population walk around in city centres.
He said “some municipal authorities deliberately encourage communities to ambulate or walk in the city in order to reduce the population of cars. It has similar advantages as bicycling and requires no fuel other than a person’s most recent meal and it has old origin.”
He however, lamented lack of effective “pedestrianisation” measures in most of our cities, saying pedestrians constitute about 22% of all road deaths, the majority being school children, women and the elderly and recommended the provision of pedestrian traffic facilities in the city centres in order to ensure seamless spatial interaction and quintessential urban mobility.
Speaking further, Okoko frowned at inappropriate activities like street trading and unauthorised street parking and called on relevant agencies to implement the parking regulations, provide parking spaces and if need be develop multi-storied and underground parking facilities.
He commended the off-street parking facilities in Akure city and recommended same for other busy commercial cities and streets in Nigeria.
The don commended the efforts of the Federal Road Safety Commission [FRSC] in preventing and reducing road accidents through the implementation of speed limits. He however recommended the adoption of Intelligent Transport Systems [ITS] in Nigeria as operating in developed countries.
He said the ITS concept emerged when transportation professionals recognised that electronic and communication technologies could play a significant role in optimizing road transportation, especially in improving safety, mobility and efficiency of transport by automatically controlling the speed of vehicles.
Okoko further suggested the use of a national transport data bank to take care of transportation planning, traffic management and transportation modelling. “We currently rely on the postdiluvian technique of manual data collection for transportation planning in Nigeria. The time is now apt for Nigeria to have a national transport data bank for planning purposes.” he added.
Professor Okoko, a first class graduate of Geography at the University of Maiduguri also recommended option of opening up the underground to utilize underground space for transport route development in Nigeria. He said this is necessary because of the growing population and number of cars.
Similarly, Professor Okoko appealed to the government to improve on mass transit systems to meet the needs of the teeming populace. “The para-transit modes characterised by rickety buses, taxis and commercial motorcycles are inefficient in bulk carriage of passengers in megacities like Lagos, Ibadan, Kano and Port Harcourt. As a policy issue, he said “the introduction of proper intra-city mass transit system exemplified by metro lines, articulated buses on bus-only metro lanes and rapid-transit bus-ways in Nigerian cities” has become urgent and needful.
He commended the effort of Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Agency (LAMATA) in introducing the intra-urban metro buses on specially designated bus lanes called the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes. This according to him provides services for over 6 million passengers per day in Lagos.
Talking on the state of Nigerian roads, the lecturer advocated for involvement of the private sector in road provision and management in Nigeria under a properly defined Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) programme. He called for the implementation of the National Road (Establishment) Fund Bill of 2017 to provide the wherewithal for urban road construction and maintenance.
Introducing the lecturer, Chairman at the lecture and Vice Chancellor, Professor Joseph Fuwape, represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic, Professor Olatunde Arayela described Okoko as a teacher and scholar who has distinguished himself as a brilliant and diligent individual. He also described him as a great academic leader and mentor to students and young scholars in his department.
Fuwape also commended the excellent delivery of the lecture which according to him will help policy makers and the populace in matters relating to urban mobility.