Cycling Cities: The Chipata Experience

Where Cycling Legacy Meets Bicycle Production and Dedicated Lanes 

Chipata, dubbed Zambia’s “New Amsterdam,” boasts a unique urban cycling culture characterized by numerous cyclists, bicycle taxis, and dedicated infrastructure. Founded in 1896 as Fort Jameson, this city near the Malawi border evolved from a British colonial outpost into a hub of vibrant cross-border trade and cultural exchanges. Its streets feature combined bicycle-pedestrian lanes and dedicated bike lanes along the central Umodzi Highway, a rarity in African cities.

From Local Craft to Global Shifts—This 2008 photo shows a worker at Luangwa Industries Limited in Chipata, Zambia, assembling a bicycle. Once a proud symbol of Zambia’s post-independence industrial drive, the factory offered vital local employment and bolstered the community by producing essential transportation tools. The factory closed in 2017 despite local protests, because it could not compete with cheaper imported bicycles. Photo Reinier van Oorsouw.


Ride with Style and Message–In Chipata, bicycle taxis are known as “Eagle, Eagle” after the brand. The photo showcases the owner’s vibrant customization with whimsical ornaments and a message of wisdom: “Old sayings apply to people selectively.” Photo by Mateyo Bonham, 2011.

Post-independence, the establishment of Luangwa Industries Limited, a state-owned bicycle assembly factory, made bicycles affordable and fostered the local cycling culture. Although the factory has since closed and cheaper imports now prevail, cycling remains widespread. Chipata’s car-driving culture is known for courteously stopping for pedestrians. Together with its dedicated infrastructure, this traffic culture enhances safety for its numerous cyclists and pedestrians, reinforcing its reputation as a safe, cycle-friendly city.


In the Chipata chapter of the Cycling Cities: The African Experience, Chris Chirwa and Emmanuel Kamuna investigate the history and culture of this Eastern Zambian city and its people, bringing to light its rare qualities that make cyclists feel welcome on its streets.