Health & Fitness

Make cycling along city roads safer and a key election agenda

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A section of Thika Road. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • In exploring the reasons behind our grim non-motorised road users’ accident statistics, need for strategies to mitigate this arises.
  • In urban areas, bicycles are making a big comeback in many neighbourhoods.
  • Interestingly, it’s not children alone, but adults across both genders are also buying bicycles.
  • This shift augurs well for physical, mental health and green commutes.

A procession a few weeks ago along Thika Road, protesting the knocking down of a cyclist, drew attention to concerns over our poor cycling infrastructure and road safety in general. Not more than two weeks later, another cyclist’s fatality, a dentist with a passion for cycling. The Kenyan medical fraternity is mourning the loss of one of our own.

In exploring the reasons behind our grim non-motorised road users’ accident statistics, need for strategies to mitigate this arises. In urban areas, bicycles are making a big comeback in many neighbourhoods. Interestingly, it’s not children alone, but adults across both genders are also buying bicycles. This shift augurs well for physical, mental health and green commutes.

Though pedestrians lead in terms of absolute road fatalities, the growing number of motorcyclists and cyclists’ traffic accidents involving their members raises concern. This may be scaring many potential users off bicycles and motorbikes.

Data from the National Transport Safety Authority(NTSA) 2019 safety statistics, shows 53 reported cycling fatalities in 2019, figures for non-fatal injuries were not indicated.

Given our lower cycling volumes, we should aim for a zero-cyclists’ fatality. In comparison, according to the European Road safety Observatory 2018 report, 8 percent of road fatalities in Europe were faced by cyclists there, despite having a much higher bicycles’ volume.

To achieve meaningful reforms in reduction of cycling fatalities and injuries on our roads, we need to explore causes of the rising cyclists’ accidents; 26 percent between the 2018 and 2019 cases.

Several approaches to amplify the reforms are suggested. For starters, mobilisation is a must to attain a critical mass movement. On this item, kudos must be given to the cycling community, for successfully bringing out their members.

The next step should be turning the many informal affiliate groups into a strong national cyclists’ organisation. The membership should also bring in rural cyclists who do not readily identify as “cyclists”. Lessons on strengthening such a body can be gleaned from Germany’s Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club(ADAC).

Advocacy strengthening through “recruitment” of visible and strong voices should be the next agenda. Nairobi Women’s Representative, Esther Passaris’ cycling crusade has been a big hit. More political figures, the police, planning and transport or safety ministries need to be brought in also.

As a shared resource, discussions with truckers, matatus and motorcyclists organisations on road fairness are necessary. Education for members on road safety, especially working with driving schools to inculcate a holistic curriculum on road users’ obligations to sharing and acknowledgement of others’ users’ rights.

Lobbying for legislation of better cycling infrastructure is necessary. Our fraternity must tie our electoral choices to commitments on this goal.

Finally, through such a national association, we must also litigate whenever our rights are infringed.

We owe such actions to our children, those who cycle as an affordable commute, as well as those who do it for relaxation and physical fitness.