Urban roads: enablers or barriers to walking?

Project leader: Karel Martens
Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Israel


  • Chebe Polycap, PhD student – Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Israel
  • Prof. Lawrence Fombe, University of Bamenda, Cameroon Prof.
  • Mark Zuidgeest – University of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Dr. Alphonse Nkurunziza – University of Rwanda, Rwanda


Roads are essential for a well-functioning society, in an economic and social sense. Roads are extremely versatile, as they can cater for both people and freight transport. They can also accommodate a broad range of transport modes and can thus serve virtually all segments of the (urban) population. This multi-purpose character makes roads a particularly important type of infrastructure in the Global South, as a single road investment can bring huge benefits to society. Yet, the design of (urban) roads strongly shapes who will actually benefit from them. Roads designed for fast-moving traffic may enhance quality of life for better-off segments of the population, yet at the same time act as a barrier to people who rely on walking as their primary mode of transport. Given the high share of walking in Global South cities, the latter possibility should be a concern for transport professionals and decision-makers alike. The objective of this research is to assess the impact of different urban road designs on the mobility, accessibility and livelihoods of people who rely on walking as their main mode of transport. The study will seek to answer this question by analyzing the impacts of selected road designs in three countries: Cameroon, Rwanda, and South-Africa. These countries represent distinct cases of road design, with South-Africa being dominated by car-oriented designs modelled after Global North models, Rwanda striving for high quality roads serving multiple users, and Cameroon featuring mostly very basic road designs. In each country, interviews will be conducted with residents living along two carefully selected roads, with the aim to identify the beneficial and detrimental impacts of road designs on vulnerable residents’ mobility, accessibility, and livelihoods. The insights will be shared in design workshops with professionals (engineers, transport planners) to develop directions for more inclusive road design.