This article is initially featured on The Reporter Ethiopia.
As part of the Global Designing Cities Initiative (GDCI), LaGare Junction in Addis Abbaba was redesigned to enhance its people-moving capacity with a focus on making it safer and easier for pedestrians to cross the busy intersection.
Director of GDCI, Skye Duncan, explained that the focus of the project was to shift attention away from motorists and onto the safety of pedestrians.
“For too many years we’ve been designing streets for cars and cars alone. We’ve developed streets where people have to risk their lives to go to work or go to school.”
The project in Addis Ababa focuses on transforming traditional road usage to better accommodate the growing number of pedestrians in the city. Transportation in Addis Ababa is already comprised of 70 percent pedestrians and only 4 percent motorists. Walking may be the city’s main form of transport, but cars still remain the largest consideration for road design.
The recent work at LaGare Junction aims to reverse this focus. The bold geometric design, which was created using 750L of paint and 120 planters, has made the crossing much more pedestrian-friendly without compromising the movement of vehicles.
Pedestrians now have access to 4 new direct pedestrian crossings which have reduced crossing distances from approximately 50m to two stints of 9.5m with a safe refuge space in between. Over 2000 sq.m of public space has also been reclaimed for safe use by pedestrians.
“It’s very good for pedestrians because the pedestrian crossing is specified so they can cross without any problem,” Fitsum Birhane, Traffic Law Control and Supervising at the Federal Transport Authority, said at the launch.
“The distance is shortened and the pedestrians can cross in a straight line. Also, vehicles can drive in lanes in a straight line.”
One of the academic institutions involved in the project was Addis Ababa University’s School of Fine Arts and Design, who were responsible for the concept and execution of the vibrant artwork.
Through collaboration and synchronisation of different sketches, the students developed a concept that incorporates different Ethiopian and African motifs to truly represent the people of Addis Ababa. The circles featured in the work reflect Ethiopian houses, food and churches, whilst the diamonds and zig zags are representative of the symbols found on traditional Ethiopian clothing, masks and paintings.
The structural changes made to the intersection were based on thorough research into the environment and natural movement of people around LaGare Junction. Information was gathered through time lapse cameras, physical observation and surveys to better understand the needs and preferences of those using the area.
A popup event was then held in July of this year, where the designs were marked out on the road in removable chalk and observations were made as to how the new design influenced traffic flow and pedestrians.
When it became apparent that there was still ample room for vehicles to manoeuvre around the intersection, and the design greatly reduced the distance pedestrians needed to travel across the busy streets, the decision was made to make the redesign a more long-term fixture at LaGare Junction.
The project is estimated to have cost USD 18,000 of which around half was contributed by the Bloomberg partners supporting the GDCI and the other half was obtained from the city budget. A key focus of the Initiative is to assist cities to develop the right projects so that existing funds devoted to transportation can be used in efficient and valuable ways.