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How to reduce road safety risks posed by boda boda

boda

Boda boda operators protest in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • Motorcycles have become an indispensable part of public transport across the world.
  • In African countries, public transport motorcycles are referred to by different names such as okada in Nigeria and boda boda in Kenya.
  • Many people, young and old, are involved in motorcycle riding as a means of transport and business.

Motorcycles have become an indispensable part of public transport across the world. In African countries, public transport motorcycles are referred to by different names such as okada in Nigeria and boda boda in Kenya.

Many people, young and old, are involved in motorcycle riding as a means of transport and business. We have seen a great rise in use of motorcycles especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, with home deliveries becoming the norm.

Motorbike riders have the same rights and responsibilities as other road users. Each of us has to take responsibility and obey the law, whether car drivers, motorbike riders, cyclist or pedestrians.

When fatalities occur in other types of travel such as rail, aviation or shipping, it is an exceptional event, a tragedy.

Unlike those other modes of transportation, roads are open to many different types of users. A pedestrian has very different road user dynamics from a lorry driver.

Differences are in their seizes, their visibility, the speeds they move at and the damage they incur or do in the event of an accident.

With these different dynamics, the reality is that on Kenyan roads, the size of the road user is an important determinant in their behaviour when it comes to road safety. This, however, is not the only factor.

FINANCIAL INCENTIVES

When it comes to motorcycles in Kenya, the majority on the roads are boda boda. Like the matatus, the operators are driven by financial incentives more than by road traffic laws.

The thought is: if I can drop off this passenger faster, I’ll be able to lick up my next ride sooner and do more rides in a day, making more money. This contradicts the requirement for safe road use, given that obeying traffic laws sometimes costs time.

A prerequisite for responsible behaviour is awareness — in this case awareness of the risks of certain behavioural patterns.

Such patterns include driving without proper lighting on the vehicle, overtaking without being able to get back into the designated lane on time for oncoming traffic to pass safely, riding against traffic (for motorcyclists), crossing the road at non-designated places and driving under the influence. These patterns are the norm in Kenya. They are so normal that we don’t notice them anymore.

Apart from personal responsibility, the government has a crucial role to play in achieving safer roads for Kenyans. The laws are well established, but the enforcement is problematic.

It is understandable that resource limitations play a role, but with a well laid out programme that focuses on key improvement areas and consistency in rollout, large strides can be made.

In this digital age, the employment of technology to help enforce responsible road use ought to be a major consideration.

Back to motorcycles, the new era of Covid-19 has forced us to awaken our senses and broaden the definition of safe mobility beyond reducing motorists and motorcycle crashes.

Quite the opposite, motorcycles provide a very good and safe alternative to mainstream modes of transportation such as matatus or taxis.

The public modes bring with them the obvious risks of infection with the coronavirus. Owning a vehicle is expensive.

Motorcycles, however, are more affordable and being that the rider and pillion passenger are in the open air the risk of infection is significantly less than in any closed space that has many people.

Nevertheless, it is paramount to address core areas around mobility such as: need to protect drivers or riders and passengers by ensuring cleanliness and sanitisation of vehicles and motorbikes, especially those being used for public transport, as well as maintaining social distance.

With the rise of stress levels due to the declining economy caused by the pandemic, it is important we maintain sanity on our roads and enforce adherence of road safety rules to ensure we preserve lives.

Kibo, for example, has been at the forefront in championing durable and safe mobility through continuous research, testing and development of its flagship motorcycles so as to provide bikes that are competently suited for the demands and rigors of the African terrain.

The company also offers a rider-training programme designed to enable riders use their bikes safely.

We believe our philosophy of durable mobility can be universally achieved if all road users take responsibility in following the prescribed road traffic rules, the government plays its role and we provide safe and reliable vehicles such as our bikes.

In mobility we share the roads we use. When it comes to Covid-19 we share the air we breathe. In both cases we have an opportunity to protect each other by protecting ourselves. Let’s grab it with both hands.

Grijspaarde is a Dutch entrepreneur and the founder of Kibo