Ethiopia’s car-clogged roads become exercise havens as it tackles air pollution

Ethiopia’s car-clogged roads become exercise havens as it tackles air pollution
Ethiopia’s car-clogged roads become exercise havens as it tackles air pollution

Ethiopia’s car-clogged roads were transformed into highways of exercise and activity as towns and cities marked World Car Free Day on Sunday. 

Scores of participants donned their work out gear and took part in fitness classes and football games in 20 cities across the country.

The East African nation has proved it is streets ahead in driving down air pollution as car free days already take place on the last Sunday of each month.

It’s hoped the scheme will help drive down the risk of developing diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Family time

Ethiopia is leading the way for car-free days (Photo: Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images)
Ethiopia play football on the normally busy main roads (Photo: Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images)

New mum Beza Tadesse, said car-free days give people the chance to exercise and creates a chance for her to spend time with family.

She told the BBC: “In Addis Ababa especially, there’s a lot of traffic. You can feel the air isn’t clean and this has an impact on our health. 

“I recently gave birth and according to Ethiopian culture we eat a lot and gain a lot of weight. We can’t get back to shape if we don’t exercise.” 

The government scheme launched last December [2018] and was designed to reduce pollution, promote exercise and social engagement, helping to improve physical health and emotional wellbeing. 

Rollout

Initially, the initiative was met with opposition from some motorists and small business owners. 

But it was deemed a runaway success and has been rolled out to at least 20 Ethiopian cities. 

There are now calls for a weekly car-free day in the capital. 

Ms Tadesse added: “Having these kind of events will help us to have a healthy life.”

‘Showcase’

Cities including Auckland in New Zealand; Paris, France and Boston, in the US, cleared their roads and staged events as part of World Car Free Day.

Event organisers, the World Carfree Network (WCN), hopes the day will be a “showcase for just how our cities might look like, feel like, and sound like without cars…365 days a year”.

Edinburgh, Bristol and Nottingham are among the UK cities taking part this year. 

More than 50 roads in the capital were closed for 12 hours on Sunday, with Tower Bridge cleared of cars to make way for a mass yoga session.