September 14th, 2020 by Remeredzai Joseph Kuhudzai
The Covid-19 crisis and the need for strong social distancing protocols have resulted in people seriously looking into how they commute. In Europe there has been a renewed focus on micromobility, with several countries actively promoting cycling and electric scooters, as well as encouraging people to walk more.
Governments are funding projects to improve infrastructure to accommodate more cyclists. Closer to home, Nairobi CBD has recently undergone a pretty cool makeover with new cycle and pedestrian lanes to make it more cycle- and pedestrian-friendly. Promoting cycling will help in the efforts to improve air quality, lower congestion, and to also provide a massive opportunity for people to get some good exercise.
Bikeshare programs have been slow to take off in a lot of African countries. An article from the World Economic Forum looks into some of the reasons why growth in the industry has been slow. One of the major stumbling blocks is the negative perception associated with cycling, as people believe bicycles are a “poor man’s mode of transport,” and there is an absence of dedicated cycle lanes. As cities now move to improve their infrastructure and make it easier for people to cycle, will we now see a shift to cycling and other forms of micromobility?
GURARIDE is a Rwanda-based green e-mobility public bikeshare (PBS) transport system company committed to the sustainability of micromobility in Africa, with Rwanda being its first entry point. GURARIDE wants to jumpstart the micromobility scene in this part of the world. GURARIDE was founded in 2017 by Tony B. Adesina and Agenor Jean-Louis.
GURARIDE combines smart bikes, electric scooters, and electric bike-sharing in a single app to enable users to choose their ride preference, and it wants to take over the first and last mile transport industries across Africa.
“If you look around, you will notice that Rwanda has started putting bike lanes all over the country’s major cities. In alignment with Rwanda vision 2030 for smart Green e-mobility in the country, we found Rwanda as the readiest country in Africa,” said Ike Erhabor, GURARIDE President.
Rwanda is a good place to start a bikeshare project, as Rwanda has managed to brand itself as a cycling nation by excelling in different international cycling competitions, hosting its own renown Tour du Rwanda cycling race, launching a Tourism Cycling project on the 27th of June 2020, and facilitating the start of its first public bikeshare transport system.
“In 2016, the Rwanda national cycling team returned home from the Africa Championships in Casablanca, Morocco with a record tally of three medals including one gold and two silver medals from the time trial and road race events (FERWACY, 2016). Cycling is now a nationwide emblematic sport that stimulates a feeling of pride and patriotism to Rwandans across the whole world than any other sport performed in the country. This fog of patriotism through sport has seen the Rwandan government develop cycling infrastructure at different levels such as bicycle lanes across roads in Kigali and other districts/cities. The President of Rwanda an avid rider himself promotes this non-motorized transportation enthusiastically. This made Rwanda the best prepared entry point for us for public bike share in Africa.”
GURARIDE set up docking stations at various strategic locations per district in each city in which it operates. By using a mobile app, one is able to locate the nearby docking station as it is also equipped with a GPS. Every user will sign off for a suitable riding membership with GURARIDE.
The company currently has 4 membership plans:
- Single Ride
- Daily Membership
- Monthly Membership
- Annual Membership
GURARIDE is starting its operations in the capital of Rwanda (Kigali) and the secondary city of Musanze. GURARIDE’s service will be a key ingredient in support of the Kigali city’s decision to establish a car-free zone in the city center as well as other initiatives such as a car-free day. GURARIDE has also secured a partnership agreement with two other vibrant cities of Huye and Rubavu for future expansion.
Given the hilly landscape of Rwanda, GURARIDE also has e-bikes that require less pedaling effort. The e-bikes are charged using solar power panels installed at the docking stations and have a range of up to 70 km on a single charge.
“GURARIDE takes pride in aligning itself with Rwanda’s vision to be a leader in Africa and in environmental sustainability by embracing a cleaner and healthier mode of transportation and low carbon emission. Furthermore, we are a gender equity sensitive company operating in a country that positions itself as a global gender equality ambassador. At GURARIDE, we advocate and promote women empowerment. Our ecosystem is largely comprised of women bike assemblers, repairers, and agents working at docking stations. The uniqueness of this bikeshare initiative in Rwanda has the potential to multiply quickly around the entire continent of Africa; GURARIDE is well positioned for this penetration.”
As GURARIDE looks to expand across Africa in the near future, its operation will solve a lot of chronic problems in many African nations, including:
- High rate of pollution in the large cities
- Traffic jams and congestion
- Long queues at bus stations due to inadequate number of buses
- Overburdened infrastructure
- High cost of transportation (taxi & motorcycle) that has resulted in a significant percentage of the population walking long distances as they commute in a lot of these African cities
“Our ride-share system, through the Public Bike Share (PBS) program, will address the problems in a way that citizens will have access to affordable Eco-friendly alternative means of transport. This will reduce congestions of motor vehicles on the road which in return reduces the carbon footprint left behind.”
It is really good to see cycling and bikeshare programs starting to get some traction in Rwanda. We also recently looked at how Namibia’s E-Bikes For Africa is ramping up its e-bike operations. You can also find some of CleanTechnica’s excellent coverage of developments in the bikeshare industry here. You can also find a healthy dose of the economic and health benefits of cycling here.
All images courtesy of GURARIDE
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