Around 5 p.m. on the evening of Friday, February 25, Avenue KG 18, one of the busiest places in Kigali located in Gisimenti, was closed to motorized traffic for the very first time.
This was in line with a recent Kigali City directive allowing bars and restaurants on this street to extend their seating area outside for the convenience of their revelers.
Immediately the road was closed, businesses in the area began setting up tables in the road, and human traffic in the area continued to increase as dusk set in.
In their small groups, you could notice how excited everyone was and how the crowd was growing hour by hour.
The revelers were of various ages while the families shared drinks and food, mainly the popular specialty, the skewer. Others, mainly young people, were taking pictures so as not to miss this historic moment.
According to the city authorities, this street will be closed to cars every week during the evenings from Friday to Sunday.
Gisimenti’s car-free zone comes after restaurants in Biryogo were allowed to set up tables on embellished streets only for meals to encourage more outdoor activities and avoid more enclosed spaces in this covid-19 pandemic period.
With the help of traffic officers, no one was allowed to cross into the car-free zone or park on the road and they made sure she was followed.
Dana Manzi, a 24-year-old waiting for her friends, said the car-free zone came at the right time.
People have been busy working all week, it’s a great and open place to come and relax and get distracted from work as well as life issues for a while and meet people, she said .
Ditto for Didier Shyaka who does not hide his enthusiasm. “It’s so much better and safer than being in a bar because there’s enough space for everyone here. I thank the government for coming up with such a great idea. Like this,” he said. -he declares.
However, a manager at Rosty Bar and Restaurant, who identified himself only as Zablon, said the first day of the car-free zone did not go well as they received few customers compared to other days.
He was, however, hopeful that traffic would increase after the first day as many people are still visiting and moving around. He also noted that if the curfew was extended beyond midnight it would be much better as many people like to come to bars at late hours.
Another bar manager who wished to remain anonymous said the first day had not been a good experience.
“There is too much chaos and noise everywhere. We pay a lot of money to rent the bars but now we are fighting with other bars for space for our tables and we have lost a lot of customers who don’t like noisy and crowded places, explains the manager.
However, that is not the case with Patrick Niyigena, a waiter at the Bahamas Bar, who said the number of customers he had had increased significantly.
“Today we are very busy as everything has changed and it feels like a festival. A lot of people have spent a lot of time at home due to Covid but now they have had the opportunity to enjoy and have a good time. time with their loved ones in an open space without having to pay for Covid tests. I’m curious to see how it will be after a week,” he said.
Speaking to Eric Iryoyavuze, a young volunteer at Red Sky Bar and Resto, who was there to make sure revelers adhere to Covid19 measures, said that even in open settings, other measures against the pandemic must be followed.
He noted that on the first day of the car-free zone, people tried to cope with the covid restrictions and those who didn’t were reminded to do so.
At 8:30 a.m. heavy rain forced most people out of the outdoors to find shelter, but as soon as it stopped raining they headed back outside as they were packed in the bars due to the large number of people who were outside.
Besides bars and restaurants, there are other businesses that line the same street, including hair salons, bakeries, and liquor stores.