Non-Motorised Transport – “bring back the old”

Benin 1

Photo: Dr. Placide Badji

A lot of the discussion about road transport concentrates on the problems of road space for cars and trucks. It is probably fair to say that- even in developing countries – transport plans firstly look to solve movability for motor traffic. However, in developing countries, non-motorised traffic (NMT) has been a fundamental transport mode for hundreds of years, and of course it is still important today. For example in 2012 Uganda published its draft policy on non-motorised transport (ref. 2201), South Africa published its draft national non-motorised transport policy in 2008 (ref. 2244), whilst writing in 2011, M.L. Quarshie said that in Ghana “cycling and walking are the two most common (forms of transport)” (ref.2237).

Over in the developed world there is a growing interest in providing facilities for NMT.  For example “Strassenverkehrstechnik“, one of Germany’s leading technical magazines on transport, recently had a special issue on  “Radschnellwege” (cycle expressways) (link). It included examples from the Netherlands and the UK as well as from Germany. Long-distance walking routes are also quite topical. A recent best-selling book in Germany described one person’s walk along the a pilgrim’s route (Hape Kerkeling’s “Ich bin dann mal weg”), while Finland even has a publication on the classification of hiking trails (ref. 505).

Maybe there will now be a policy move away from transport investment and planning based on motorised transport and towards investment based on non-motorised transport – and in both developed and developing countries. Perhaps new transport studies should consider ideas such as:

  • Move away from level of service (LOS) criteria for motorised transport and towards LOS for non-motorised transport
  • Assume values of travel time which are the same for all persons, and which do not differ with either age of traveller, mode of transport, or income
  • Move away from computerised transport modelling. On this point, (ref. 2245) says:

“transport  planning  cannot  be  limited  to  quantitative  analysis,  as  demanded  by  the  synoptic/rational comprehensive approach” and “accounting for direct and indirect impacts of transport plans requires the knowledge of specific local conditions that are not easily quantifiable and only realized via in-depth understanding of local context  achieved by consensus building”


505 – Finland, Hiking trail classification, Suomen Latu (Finnish Central Association for Outdoor Recreation), 2011

2201 – Uganda, Draft non-motorised transport policy; Ministry of Works and Transport, 2012

2237 – Ghana, M.L. Quarshie “NMT – the Ghana experience” Centre for cycling expertise, 2011

2244 – South Africa, Draft national NMT policy; Department of Transport, 2008

2245 – Ghana,  Seth Appiah-Opoku et al, “Urban Transport Project Screening in Ghana: A Theoretical Approach to a More Inclusive Practice”, Journal of Intelligent Transportation and Urban Planning, April 2015


It would be helpful if the authors of (Ref.2245) could write a version of their material in a style which would be much more readable.


About roadnotes

Robert Bartlett is an international consultant with over 30 years of professional experience as a highway and traffic engineer with leading companies and organisations in several countries, including Germany, China (Hong Kong), Qatar and the UK. Specialised in urban studies, transport and the use of GIS, research has included new ideas on subjects such as the study of social justice using GIS, the dimensions of vehicles, and comparative geometrics (highways and transport).
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