Rwanda’s ambitious car-free days pay off handsomely and has seen the country’s capital clinch the Public Health Laureate for Wellbeing, 2019

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame taking part in the Kigali's car-free days. (UMUSEKE)
  • The City of Kigali, which in 2016 introduced car-free days, has continued to impress locals and foreign tourists alike for its godly cleanliness and the practice has since been adopted by many districts across the country.
  • Kigali outshined Sweden's Gothenburg, USA's Los Angeles and Canada's Vancouver to be crowned the winner in the Public Health well-being category.
  • The award was announced on Thursday by NewCities, a global non-profit committed to shaping a better urban future, along with Novartis Foundation, Novartis US Foundation, and the City of Montréal.

Rwanda’s capital has won the hearts of international public health officials for its efforts to curb carbon emissions and has been crowned Public Health Laureate for 2019 Wellbeing City Award.

The City of Kigali, which in 2016 introduced car-free days, has continued to impress locals and foreign tourists alike for its godly cleanliness and the practice has since been adopted by many districts across the country.

The award was announced on Thursday by NewCities, a global non-profit committed to shaping a better urban future, along with Novartis Foundation, Novartis US Foundation, and the City of Montréal.

“The City of Kigali has been selected for their Kigali Car Free Day. Every first and third Sunday of the month, the citizens of Kigali are encouraged to leave their cars at home and attend a free community event with sports activities and medical check-ups,” reads part of a statement by NewCity issued Thursday.

Kigali outshined Sweden's Gothenburg, USA's Los Angeles and Canada's Vancouver to be crowned the winner in the Public Health well-being category.

The prestigious Wellbeing City Award is the first international initiative to recognise and honour city governments that place wellbeing at the centre of urban planning and policymaking.

Marie-Chantal Rwakazina, Kigali City Mayor, welcome the award and said they were over the moon for the rare recognition.

“We are so excited the City of Kigali has been selected as a laureate of the 2019 Wellbeing City Award in the Public Health category. This is a vote of confidence in Kigali Car Free Day as an activity that promotes healthy living and wellbeing in the city,” Rwanda’s The New Times quoted her as saying.

“We thank our citizens who have embraced the Car Free Days and all our partners who have made this innovative activity a success. We shall continue fostering the wellbeing of our citizens and we intend to multiply efforts and expand the Car Free Day,” she added.

The award, classified under the Public Health category, is reserved for the most progressive and innovative ideas that drive positive changes in cities – large and small – through events, research and urban innovation projects.

On car-free days, certain roads in Kigali are closed off to motorists for several hours, with thousands of citizens jogging or cycling in car-free streets before converging at designated points from collective physical exercises and medical checkups for those interested. Participants are also encouraged to take part in social causes such as donating blood.

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