Boda boda rides are a dime a dozen and save time in traffic snarl-ups that define Nairobi; but they are death traps. This situation obtains across the country because boda bodas have become the most popular mode of transport; they are fast and can easily access areas that motor vehicles cannot.
Last year, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) documented 836 deaths occasioned by boda bodas. This year alone, 171 riders have lost their lives in traffic accidents, most of which they are the architects.
Indeed, boda bodas are such a menace that in some public hospitals; special wards have been set up to cater for victims of boda boda crashes. The causes of these accidents are varied, but the most common are alcohol and substance abuse and lack of discipline among riders. Oftentimes, riders get off the road and ride on pavements or any accessible open space and weave dangerously between moving vehicles.
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Contrary to road regulations, boda boda riders often carry more than one passenger. Some have been observed to carry as many as five with the rider perched dangerously on the fuel tank in a manner that makes it impossible for him to have full control of the motorbike, but more especially in case of an emergency.
The tragedy is that in their haste, boda boda passengers seem completely unaware of the risks they expose themselves to. It is rare to find passengers donning safety helmets and reflective jackets that are a mandatory requirement. But when they are available, they are too dirty.
In low visibility, reflective jackets could make the difference between life and death, yet this salient fact does not seem to register.
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There are an estimated 700,000 riders in the country of which, NTSA statistics show, 70 per cent do not take insurance policies that cover them and their passengers against accident liabilities. In most cases, whenever accidents occur, the riders find a way to disappear from the scene before traffic police officers make an appearance.
In some areas, including the Central Business District (CBD) of Nairobi, boda boda riders have been accused of complicity in crime. They carry petty thieves who snatch bags and other carriables from unwary pedestrians. Motorists unfortunate enough to get involved in minor traffic accidents with boda boda riders get harassed by riders who operate like lawless gangs.
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On January6, 2018 for instance, boda boda riders set a bus on fire in Malindi following an accident involving one of their own. In December 2017, boda boda riders torched a bus in Busia. These are just a few of the cases that highlight the menace of boda boda riders and which should be stopped.
Traffic police and NTSA officers must come out of their lethargy and stop the practice of collecting bribes to look the other way as boda bodas continue to infringe on traffic rules. It is inconceivable that these officers do not encounter riders who flout rules.
They do, but let them ride on. National crackdowns on boda bodas to ensure riders meet the requirements for doing business should be mounted regularly as opposed to the practice only when an accident occurs.
Of course, most of the riders have not gone through formal training, hence do not have licences, neither are they conversant with road safety rules. This accounts for their attitude that demonstrates scant respect not just for other road users, but life as well.
We cannot afford to have such people on our roads and expect sanity at the same time. As the law requires, every rider must carry a valid licence and produce it when demanded by law enforcers.
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We all must acknowledge that safety, in whatever circumstances, starts with us. Members of the public should put their safety first by ensuring those to whom they entrust their lives while on boda bodas are equipped to do the job competently.
Avoid riders who are intoxicated most of the time. Such riders are not only identifiable by their inebriated looks, many hardly take a bath. A rider who misses out on customers and gets to understand why, will be compelled to take the necessary measures to survive.