NTSA raises alarm over pedestrian deaths

Members of public look at a lorry that killed 2 people and Injured several others when it veered off the road hitting roadside traders and pedestrians at Akala Market in Siaya.[Michael Mute, Standard]

The number of pedestrians killed on Kenyan roads continue to rise for the last two years, raising concerns about their safety.

A report by National Transport and Safety Authority(NTSA) shows that last year, some 4,139 people died on the roads by December 20.

According to the report, the majority of fatalities were pedestrians and motorcyclists.

Some 1,506 pedestrians and 1,096 motorcyclists died, followed by passengers at 709.

The number of pillions (bodaboda passengers) who died was recorded at 374 with 369 drivers and 85 pedal cyclists.

Also during the same year, 10,201 persons sustained serious injuries as 7,344 had slight injuries.

The number of those seriously injured was 9,495 while those slightly injured were 6,841.

According to NTSA, in the year 2022, pedestrians accounted for the highest fatalities at 1,682 while motorcyclists  deaths stood 1,254.

And in 2021, a total of 1,144 pedestrians died compared to 912 motorcyclists, contributing to a total of 3,286 fatalities.

Report has blamed pedestrians for failure to use the few available footbridges and opting to cross the road leading to deaths.

Areas where such behaviours are now common on major busy roads in Nairobi include former General Motors East Africa(now Isuzu East Africa) area along Mombasa Road.

Also listed as dangerous is the area near Kobil Petrol Station along North Airport Road, Pipeline and Fedha bus stop along Outering Road.

Also dreaded is areas near Makadara Law Courts and City Stadium along Jogoo Road.

Notably, all the mentioned places have are footbridges.

Boda bodas have also been blamed for contributing highly in pedestrians’ deaths due to their traffic misbehaviours that result in hit and run incidents.

Kevin Mubadi, chairman of  Boadaboda Association of Kenya(BAK) said that riders can reduce the increasing deaths of pedestrians by bringing order in the sector.

In the Nairobi Central Business Districts(CBD), Mubadi blamed County Council askaris, who harass them even without having any non-compliant issues.

“In Nairobi, when bodabodas want to follow traffic rules like stop when traffic lights are on, the askaris, mostly plain clothes pounce on them, take the keys which cost them from Sh3,000,” said Mubadi.

He said that since many want to avoid paying such amount, riders are forced to drive through the lights or even on wrong sides.

Outside the CBD, Mubadi said the government needs to partner with chairmen of bodaboda stages, empower them and ensure that all riders belong to a Sacco for accountability.

“Since traffic police officers are not everywhere, the chairmen of stages need to be empowered so that they can even arrest those who are found flouting traffic rules, including driving on wrong sides and on pedestrian walkways and take them to police stations so that after the owner stays out of work for like a week and with a fine, he will not repeat the mistakes,” said Mubadi.

He said the association in December last year launched a sensitisation programme across the country, which was attended by Deputy Inspector General Douglas Kirocho and Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo.

He said the programme starts in February.

Christopher Kost, Africa Program Director at Institute for Transportation and Development Policy(ITDP) faulted non strategic construction and design of pedestrian footbridges.

“Urban streets need crossings that are convenient, safe, and direct. Major streets need well-designed crossings at locations where there is demand for pedestrians to cross, such as markets, schools, and public transport stops. To prioritise pedestrians and cyclists, cities should build at-grade crossings rather than footbridges, which are inconvenient, inaccessible and costly to build,” said Kost.

He said many cities have sought to increase vehicle speeds by erecting barriers to prevent pedestrians and cyclists from crossing at grade.

He said the Nairobi Accident Map indicates that 43 percent of collisions involving a pedestrian happened within 500 meters of a footbridge.

“This suggests that footbridges are not a complete solution for curbing pedestrian fatalities and injuries,” he said.

And in an effort to reduce road fatalities, NTSA has come up with a five-year Road Safety Action Plan 2023-27.

It aims to achieve a minimum 50 percent reduction in deaths and serious injuries in designated high-risk demonstration corridors and urban areas.

The new Action Plan, which was launched last year October, sets out eight National Strategic Priorities and a timetable for action and results.

These priorities, it said can be addressed with contributions from all stakeholders.

“Success will require binding partnerships between all road safety actors— communities, pedestrians, drivers, passengers and the myriad of agencies, businesses, and other interests—all engaged in many ways that seek to improve the safety of Kenyan roads and streets,” said the action plan.

Among the eight national strategic priorities under priority number four on infrastructure safety will include improving the safe classification, design, and use of the road network.

Other are scale-up safety engineering measures in designated high-risk demonstration corridors and urban areas with emphasis on setting safe speed limits and providing enhanced protective features for all users (safety barriers, pedestrian platforms and refuges, roundabouts, traffic calming among others).

 “Current road designs prioritise the needs of motorised vehicles and do not adequately consider the safety of vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists,” it adds.

Ensuring safer road environments and improving overall situation of non-motorised road users, the action plan says would help to improve the overall situations.

“Road planning, design, and management in Kenya are the responsibilities of both the National and County governments. However, there is a lack of trained and experienced road engineers in road safety, both in the public and private sectors,” said the plan.

The action plan also plans to finalise and deploy the Urban Street Design Manual, which it says has the potential to have far reaching effects across the Kenya’s cities and towns, promoting safety for pedestrians and cyclists, and supporting complementary public transport services.

“Critical elements will include minimum standards for footpaths and cycle tracks, at-grade crossings which prioritise safe pedestrian and cyclist movement and alignment of operating speeds with the design, function of the road, and non-motorised use of the road.

The manual will be finalised, published and backed up by an implementation policy and action plan with clear timelines and targets.