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Equitable Mobility for City Health and Wellbeing

The overall aim of Equitable Mobility for City Health and Wellbeing (EMCHEW) is to develop stakeholder-led solutions to achieve sustainable and equitable mobility, grounded in a better understanding of the issue and the health impacts it causes.

Active project



For many East African residents, travel around cities is problematic due to poor walking and cycling infrastructure, traffic congestion leading to long travel times, and exposure to pollution and road safety hazards, all of which impact on people’s health and wellbeing.

Traffic and pedestrians in Nairobi, Kenya

Pedestrians avoiding traffic in Nairobi, Kenya. S Cinderby / SEI

The transport sector in urban Africa vividly demonstrates how structural and wealth inequalities play out, where those living and working in the informal sector suffer disproportionate negative impacts on their health, livelihoods and quality of life. The predominance of private cars, mainly used by the middle and upper classes in cities of low- and middle-income countries, creates congestion and dominate road infrastructure investments. Consequently, the urban poor bear the burden, in terms of health impacts from exposure to traffic pollution, noise, inadequate active travel infrastructure and long hours trapped in traffic when they are not earning an income.

EMCHEW is working with vulnerable urban residents (including the poor, disabled and children) in two cities in Kenya (Nairobi and Mombasa) to understand how their journeys, and the daily challenges and risks they confront, affect health and wellbeing, both psychologically and physically. It has three specific objectives:

  • understanding infrastructure and mobility interactions;
  • understanding the dimensions of health and wellbeing impacts of mobility; and
  • co-designing mobility infrastructure improvements to deliver health and wellbeing benefits.

The project is funded by the British Academy.

Project approach

The project applies novel health measurements, journey mapping and storytelling to understand different dimensions of the problem. It will assess how informal mobility solutions adopted by these groups interact with official mobility infrastructure and systems.

After identifying particular pressing challenges with local communities, EMCHEW will work with engineers and vulnerable users to co-design solutions to improve mobility allowing better access to work, education, healthcare and opportunities particular for vulnerable users to improve health and wellbeing.

Bus Rapid Transit -Design using creative approaches

Bus Rapid Transit – creative approaches to co-design transport solutions. Photo: i-CMiiST / SEI


The interaction of mobility with health and wellbeing linked to infrastructure, governance and behaviours in dynamic rapidly changing cities entails a consideration of this issue from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Furthermore, the interactions of mobility on other dimensions of health, poverty alleviation through enhanced livelihoods, access to education and equitable urban infrastructure entail a more holistic consideration of the relationships between these intertwined issues of development.

Understanding infrastructure and mobility interactions in space and time

To assess the interactions of multiple dimensions of mobility on wellbeing, EMCHEW uses a mixed methods approach aimed at robustly characterizing both the physiological and psychological impacts of urban commutes on participants.

Working with up to 60 individuals, participatory GIS (PGIS) and service design is used to understand individual travel demands and interactions within the dimensions of our assessment frameworks.

Mapping individuals’ journeys and the challenges faced en-route, for a cross-section of users (including vulnerable groups, women and men, and different ages including children) EMCHEW will examine both positive and negative journey experiences.

Participatory methods to map transport issues.

Participatory methods to map transport issues faced by individuals. Photo: i-CMiiST / SEI

The mapping will be enhanced by connections to digital storytelling approaches developed in our previous co-design (I-CMiiST, Air-Network Nairobi) and wellbeing projects (EPSRC Mood, Mobility & Place) and complemented with imagery and video to better understand the temporal dimensions of commuting.

EMCHEW will compare perceptual data to official data on accidents and injury hotspots for different types of road users and transport modes to elicit and visualize discrepancies between official estimations of road safety and lived experiences of mobility hazards affecting wellbeing,

Understanding health and wellbeing impacts of mobility

In each city, wellbeing and health interactions of mobility will be investigated in more detail using different quantitative and subjective approaches.

Subjective well-being (SWB) is a subjective measure often conceptualized into two separate aspects:

  • Hedonic SWB deals with mood, and feelings of pleasure or happiness;
  • Eudaimonic SWB is about finding purpose or meaning, experiencing personal growth, and achieving self-actualization.

Participants will be assessed on how journeys affect their mood state through pre- and post-journey questionnaires. Post-trip Satisfaction with Travel surveys (tested in numerous international settings but not East Africa) will also be used to assess the impact of journeys on subjective well being. These will be collected by travel-mode segments e.g. walk-bus-walk to identify the effects of different modes.

Use of sensors

Building on methods developed in the SEI City Health & Wellbeing Initiative, the physiological impacts of journeys on health, and interaction with elements of infrastructure and environmental quality will be assessed through personal monitoring data.

Smart watches will be used to collect data on heart-rate variability (HRV). This data can reveal the influence of environments on the nervous system to indicate stress or relaxation and enables the assessment of the effect of differing urban environments on people’s health and wellbeing.

Purple air sensor

Low-cost, portable air quality PurpleAir sensors will be used to assess people’s exposure to particulate matter. Photo: H Cambridge / SEI

To assess the health dimension in more detail, participants’ air pollution and noise exposure will be obtained using low-cost sensors including:
– particulate matter (PM) counters
– carbon monoxide (CO) levels loggers
– temperature and humidity passive sensors
– noise monitors.

Co-designing Improved Mobility Infrastructure for Wellbeing

Using the outcomes from the previous activities, a series of co-design workshops will be held in each case study city, focused upon specific mobility challenge topics or hot-spot locations where wellbeing impacts are occurring.

Bringing together relevant stakeholders including: infrastructure engineers, transport planners and representatives of vulnerable users (drawn from existing project participants) to an equitable forum, the workshops will use a mixture of traditional and creative presentations, to present the findings and initiate discussions.

Different stakeholders co-design equitable transport solutions during workshop. Photo: i-CMiiST / SEI

Different stakeholders co-design equitable transport solutions during workshop. Photo: i-CMiiST / SEI

Scenario building will be used collectively to imagine more inclusive mobility futures that could address the challenges that have been identified. Diving down into more detail, the infrastructure implications of these futures will then be investigated – either the spatial dimensions (what needs to happen where); or else the governance or management aspects of infrastructure that could overcome mobility barriers (what needs to change in the system).

The barriers and enablers to these changes including the engineered dimensions will also be considered as well as recognizing that implementing them could also affect some people negatively as well as positively.

Case studies

Equitable Mobility Case Study Locations

Equitable Mobility case study locations. Figure: Steve Cinderby / SEI

Case study work is being undertaken in Nairobi and Mombasa. These cities are representative of many rapidly urbanizing centres across sub-Saharan Africa, and locations where urbanization trends are rapidly accelerating.


Traffic congestion in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Nina Stock / Pixabay

Traffic congestion in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Nina Stock / Pixabay

Nairobi is the capital of Kenya, home to 6.5 million residents within the metropolitan area, who face significant mobility challenges linked to poor infrastructure. The World Bank reports that pedestrians account for 65% of fatalities which are made up primarily of the poorest residents who have limited affordable mobility choices. In addition, congestion is making the limited mass transit systems less effective and more stressful for users due to unreliable travel times.


Matatu entering Mombasa, Kenya. Photo: Metroskop / CC BY

Matatu public service vehicle entering Mombasa, Kenya. Photo: Metroskop / CC BY

Mombasa is the second city of Kenya with approximately 3 million residents in its metropolitan area. It provides a useful case site it is currently planning a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and new bridge crossings; and has interesting mobility interactions for locals around infrastructure designed to service tourists, and interchanges from ferries to other modes.

Steve Cinderby

Senior Research Fellow

SEI York

Rachel Pateman


SEI York

Cassilde Muhoza

Research Fellow

SEI Africa

Romanus Opiyo
Romanus Opiyo

Programme Leader

SEI Africa

Howard Cambridge

Research Support Group Manager

SEI York

The project is led by the SEI’s York Centre,  working closely with the SEI’s Africa centre (Cassilde Muhoza and Romanus Opiyo) in Nairobi to ensure delivery of the different activities in both cities through sensitisation, logistics, event planning, network and dissemination.

Other key partners for the project are with Karen Lucas (INTALinc) and Nancy Abira (TIMCON Associates).

Crucial to this are the two research assistants (Sherlyne Omangi and Constant Cap) who are responsible for the data collection activities using participatory GIS, wellbeing surveys, sensor monitoring.

Constant Cap

Constant has a deep interest in sustainable and inclusive mobility, urban resilience and people driven urbanism. He is a regular commentator on urban planning issues facing Nairobi and other African Cities through his blog ( He has been coordinating Naipolitans, ( a platform that brings together urban professionals and enthusiasts towards creating a better urban environment for all.

Sherlyne Omangi

Sherlyne is an experienced Researcher and urban planner with a demonstrated history of working in the think tanks industry. Skilled in research, environmental audits, monitoring and evaluation and spatial mapping and analysis. She has a Master’s degree focused in Environmental Planning and Management from University of Nairobi.


This project is funded by the British Academy, under the Urban Infrastructures of Well-Being. This programme aims to support interdisciplinary research that explores how formal and informal infrastructures interact to affect the well-being of people in cities across the Global South.

The programme will:

  • Deliver research excellence with development impact;
  • Strengthen the evidence base on what works at the critical junctions of formal and informal infrastructures, including what works in different contexts;
  • Provide insights to enable new approaches to infrastructure development and innovative directions in implementation by policy makers and practitioners.

British Academy Logo

SEI Projects

External projects / networks

International Network for Transport and Accessibility in Low Income Communities (INTALInC)
INTALInC builds research partnerships promoting urban transport systems to meet the travel needs of low income populations in cities in the Global South.

UNEP Share the Road
The Share the Road Programme supports governments and other stakeholders in developing countries to move away from prioritizing the car-driving minority, towards investing in infrastructure for the majority: those who walk and cycle.

Design and development by Soapbox.