Oh for Christmas, a public holiday, when most Kenyans stayed at home to celebrate or just relax as they knew best! Save for Christians, who trooped to churches for pre-Christmas vigils, most others found solace in ‘Pastor Pillow’.
Christmas and Boxing Day saw relative calm on the roads. But the holiday is over and with the back-to-school shopping in top gear, it’s back to city traffic chaos.
Forget the matatu madness that has featured on this page ad nauseam; as a pedestrian, my gripe is with pikipiki (motorcycles), both private and for hire (boda bodas).
Caveat: I would be dishonest to hide moments a boda boda came to my rescue in an extremely tight moment not so long ago, when I needed to get to a function at peak traffic time.
I left before the chief guest — a high-ranking international civil servant — arrived. Those I left behind later confided that the official, in his opening remarks, had confessed to making it for the event only because he had heeded his wife’s advice to jump on a boda boda!
Later that month, gospel artiste Edel Kweyu had to abandon a taxi for a boda boda to get to Don Bosco Upper Hill Church for a wedding ceremony, where she had an official slot.
Boda bodas play a vital role in a city such as Nairobi, for which traffic chaos is the rule rather than the exception.
In the absence of reliable transport, boda bodas have become a saviour for many an urbanite pressed for time — but that is as far as my praises go. For, truth be told, between boda bodas and matatus, it’s difficult to tell which is the lesser evil. I have personally lost count of the number of times I have had a brush with death as I darted away from a bodaboda that came from nowhere.
Inasmuch as Pikipikis are motorised traffic, one would expect riders to obey traffic rules like the other road users. But no! You strive to obey the first lessons in road safety: ‘Look left, look right, look left again…’ But just as you move to cross the road, you must jump backwards for dear life’s sake.
It is as if “Sessional Paper of 2006 on the Development and Management of the Roads Sub-sector for Sustainable Economic Growth”, which has a section on non-motorised transport that includes pedestrian traffic, did not exist.
“When these share the same space with motorised transport, NMT severely constrains the efficiency of motorised transport and creates conflicts and accidents,” it states.
The document committed to developing NMT infrastructure and facilities where sufficient demand exists, and nowhere is the demand so pressing as in Nairobi.
The greatest problem is that, although a number of pedestrian paths exist, boda bodas terrorise walkers with abandon, and in full view of traffic police.
Pikipikis, both private and for taxi hire, have no business sending pedestrians scampering for safety on designated walkways. It’s high time police balanced their attention between matatus and boda bodas, which are just as bad, if not worse, as regards endangering pedestrians’ lives.