Joyce Pili of Mpeketoni, Lamu County carries her four children and two others on her motorbike. Below is a road accident involving a motorcyle. Scenes like this are common in many parts of the country. [Photos: Kiundu Waweru]

Nairobi; Kenya: The Government has crafted a raft of measures to reduce deaths caused by motorcycle riders on boda bodas (taxis) — after the realisation that they are now causing more deaths than even the notorious matatu drivers.

Since January, more than 230 people have died in boda boda-related accidents, with the number rising. More than 3,000 Kenyans die on the roads yearly — or eight people daily, with boda bodas now contributing the highest number of victims.

“While we have seen a significant drop in deaths from matatus, fatalities from boda bodas have sharply increased,” said NTSA Director General Francis Meja during the recent launch of a new campaign to save 100 lives monthly.

Under the new guidelines announced by Transport Principal Secretary Nduva Muli, motorcycle owners, riders, passengers and even the dealers have a responsibility. Mr Muli said the Government’s role remains formulation of laws and to ensure that they are followed.

The tough new rules dictate that owners of motorcycles caught carrying more than one passengers or operating without a license will be first charged before the rider is charged. “No dealer(s) will be allowed to sell a motor cycle without two helmets and two reflector jackets,” reads the regulations in part.

The Government’s view is that dealing with the owners of the motor cycles, will help to reduce the madness. The owners will now begin taking responsibility to ensure the people they give their autos are aware of the rules. But most of the owners of these motor cycles are low income earners or small businesses seeking extra income from this high-volume business venture and would not be willing to risk with law enforcers.

Road Safety

Even with the publication of new tough rules to guide the conduct of the boda boda business, critics argue this might not bear the desired fruits because most of operators are either school drop outs or illiterates.

With ignorance of law being no defence, the Government is determined to catch law breakers.

“We will not relent because our responsibility as a government is to ensure that Kenyans are safe and lives are not lost,” said Muli during the launch of a campaign to increase awareness on road safety recently. The campaign is directed at pedestrians, motorists, cyclists and boda boda riders.

The National Transport and Safety Authority Operation of Motorcycles Regulations, 2014, currently undergoing public consultation will apply on all motorcycles operating on public roads.

The regulations say no motor cycle will be sold in Kenya without two helmets, which shall be required to comply with standards set by the Kenya Bureau of Standards and which will have the registration number of the motor cycle clearly displayed. In addition, the motor cycle will be sold with two reflector jackets.

The regulations bar two-wheeled autos from carrying more than one passenger. If the regulation is disregarded, the owner of the auto can be charged. Experts say this may be difficult to implement because owners cannot control what the riders do when they are on their own but industry stakeholders are of the view there is need for a change of behaviour among Kenyans.

“There is need for people to change their behaviour,” said Safaricom Chief Executive Bob Collymore, who is leading corporates to support road safety measures. “It’s up to all of us.”

Motorcycle riders will also be required to ensure they have proper licenses, wear protective gear and carry one passenger at a time. The regulations ban carrying goods on motor cycles, and require that the headlights of the motor cycles be on when on the road.

Passengers too will be required to ensure that they are given the right protective gear and do not accept to be carried on a motor bike that already has another passenger on board. They shall also be required to sit astride in the seat fixed behind the rider’s seat.

In a measure that might face stiff resistance from the growing number of boda boda operators and some customers, boda-bodas will only be allowed to operate between 5:00 am to 11:00 pm. The rules could reduce insecurity as robberies in upmarket suburbs that are conducted using motor bikes

Additionally, boda boda owners will be required to register with relevant counties authorities where they operate and will not be allowed to operate in more than one county.

“A person who contravenes any provision of these regulations, whose penalty is not provided for in the Traffic Act, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding Sh20, 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or, both,” the regulations read in part.

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