Motorcycle taxis, better known as boda bodas, have for years been associated with anarchy and operators who disregarded traffic rules with abandon, often causing accidents that make it necessary for hospital to set up dedicated wards.
Now, however, Uber, Bolt (formerly Taxify) and SafeBoda have introduced hailing applications that have brought order into a majority of the close to one million boda boda operators in the country.
Shivachi Muleji, the general manager for Bolt in the East African region told Business Daily that the platforms have not only brought order to the informal transport industry but also increasing customer confidence.
“You can identify a driver. They have proper documents and this adds to the peace of mind of the customer,” Mr Shivachi said.
Customers can see the operator details like name, photo and license plate on their mobile phones, which adds to their comfort.
As a rule, all operators on the three boda boda platforms must wear a helmet and a reflector jacket, and provide the same to their customers in efforts to minimise fatality risks in case of crashes.
The Estonia-owned Bolt launched the app in March last year while SafeBoda launched in August and Uber in November in what has revolutionised the once chaotic industry that had achieved notoriety for maiming and killing riders and passengers alike.
What is more, Kenyans no longer have to stand under the scorching sun to flag down a boda boda. At the click of a button on all Android phones, one can request for a motorbike ride from the comfort of their workplace or homes.
The three applications have also set base fares for the operators to protect customers from exploitation. Customers pay between Sh14 and Sh30 per kilometre for every ride and Sh1 per minute.
The three have further introduced safety buttons as part of reducing fatalities in case of accidents. Riders can get medical help by pressing the button.
Data by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) shows that boda bodas accounted for 511 fatalities last year, which was 18 percent of 2,750 deaths on Kenya roads in the same period.
Bolt has a SOS button that allows an operator to call for an ambulance within minutes of an accident.
The application that can only be used by an operator when he or she is on a trip enhances the safety precautions offered by use of helmets and reflector jackets.
“In case of a crash, evacuation is guaranteed and within minutes of calling for help through the SOS button, an ambulance gets to the scene which can at times help avoid fatality in cases of grave accidents,” Mr Shivachi said.
In case of a crash, the operator or anyone with access to the operator’s app-enabled phone long presses the SOS button and within minutes is linked to ambulance operators.
Bolt is set to introduce the service on its customers’ mobile phones to reduce the fatalities from road accidents by enabling pylon riders to call for help in case the operator has been wounded or dies in a crash.