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Kigali's first monthly car free day encourages more exercises


For one day, every month, Rwanda’s capital Kigali is a car free zone.

The government initiative was launched in 2016 to cut emissions and keep Rwandans moving towards a healthier lifestyle.

Kigali is already one of Africa’s cleanest urban centers.

The city of 1.1 million people has a reputation for order that is rare on a continent of sprawling and often chaotic street scenes.

Plastic bags are banned in Rwanda, so the capital and its lush green surrounds are free from ragged bits of plastic fluttering on fences or clogging drains.

Workers trim grass verges along the well-swept roads of Kigali.

Without cars or buses, residents are encouraged to walk or ride bicycles. There is also a full time car-free zone in the city.

As part of the car free day, the public can also take part in exercise and wellness activities organized by the city authorities.

“I can do every day exercises but when I meet all the people here, it encourages me and do more exercises, so I feel happy for my health,” said Grace Umwari, a Kigali resident.

“Before I used to feel sick all the time but ever since I started to do this group training, I feel fit. I could not do more than 10 km but now I do it without getting tired. We are liking this group sport initiative more and more,” said another resident, Placide Banzi.

Minister of Sports, Jullienne Uwacu said the government wants individuals within Rwanda and across Africa to adapt cleaner and greener living into their every day.

“The way we do it, we do it in our context but sports we cannot say it is exclusively for Kigali people or Rwandan people. But the way we are trying to promote sport may be done in our context or in our way which means others countries other people across Africa may, maybe learn from what we are doing or just adjust this car free day on their own context,” she said.

Since car free days were introduced in 2016 organizers say it has become a highly anticipated recreational event.

“People are many and the numbers are increasing, so mainly it is mobilizing people around sport but also people take advantage of making check up, check up to make sure that they are in good health,” said Kigali Mayor, Pascal Nyamulinda.

Participants of the fitness sessions got free check-ups and medical advice in the spirit of promoting a healthier lifestyle.

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