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  • Jérôme Chenal

Impact of Topography on Rural Cycling Patterns: Case Study of Bugesera District, Rwanda

Urban Science


Rural mobility in Africa is an under-researched issue. Rural communities have often suffered from reduced mobility that has hampered their access to essential services and facilities such as education, health care, food, and clean water. In many rural communities, a more affordable mobility option, such as non-motorized mobility (cycling and walking), is the preferred way for people to travel. Apart from its well-known advantages, little is known about the impact of topography and routes on the mobility options adopted by rural communities. Therefore, this study aims to use Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) to analyze the impact of topography and routes on rural mobility patterns at the level of formal and informal cycle track networks in the Bugesera District, focusing on the Nyamata and Mayange sectors, Rwanda. This study used GPS devices given to 50 participants to collect mobility patterns in the two previously mentioned sectors. Then, the study imposed a 30-m buffer on the official road networks of Rwanda collected by the Rwanda Transport Development Agency (RTDA). These data were joined to GPS tracks to highlight official and unofficial roads (tracks that did not fall within the 30-m buffer). In addition, Digital Elevation Models were applied to analyze the SRTM (30 m resolution) and ALOS PALSAR (12.5 m resolution) elevation data of the Bugesera region. The findings revealed an elevation range of 1333 to 1535 for SRTM and 1323 to 1641 for ALOS PALSAR. The study calculated the slope to find the slope percentage (m) and length (m). The findings from the DEMs and the slope calculation revealed that Bugesera has a relatively flat surface, favorable for cycling. The slope percentage was further classified into five levels of slope ranging from steep to very steep. And the Van Zuidam classification results confirmed that Bugesera has “a flat or nearly flat surface, without significant denudation processes”. With a favorable topography and a higher bicycle ownership ratio, residents of the Bugesera district favor cycling in their daily activities more than any district in Rwanda. Cycling in Nyamata or Mayange links residents to areas with higher social, educational, administrative, and economic activities.

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