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ELECTION 2022

Roadside training turns boda bodas into death traps

COUNTIES
By Kibiwott Koross | Jan 19th 2015 | 5 min read

Jacob Njuguna, an electrician, in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County was recently run over by a trailer after a boda boda he had hired attempted to overtake a matatu on the wrong side of the road.

Eldoret traffic boss Humphrey Abai, described the December accident as the goriest he had ever witnessed in his service as a police officer.

“When we arrived at the scene near Zion Mall, I was shocked to see Njuguna’s body under the trailer. It was horrifying. We could not understand how the boda boda rider decided to overtake on the wrong side of the road. Witnesses told us the motorcyclist was over taking all the way as it tried to beat traffic,” Mr Abai said.

Njuguna’s death is a common phenomenon in the country as many innocent lives are lost daily due to motor cycle accidents. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) traffic accidents are among the top 10 causes of death globally, coming third after HIV/Aids and tuberculosis respectively. In a report dubbed The Burden of Road Traffic Injuries-The Global Picture, released in September last year, WHO says motorcycle accidents contribute to 23 per cent of global traffic deaths.

In Kenya, statistics from National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) show that by December 31 last year (2014), some 388 riders died in traffic accidents up from 328 the previous year. The WHO report attributes this to lack of training and policies to protect vulnerable road users.

The report also says most countries are yet to enact comprehensive laws concerning the major risk factors complete with poor law enforcement as the case in Kenya where traffic police officers are accused of taking bribes instead of instilling law.
An independent investigation by The Standard on Saturday in Nairobi’s Industrial Area, Nakuru, Eldoret and Iten towns established that most riders had not gone through proper training. We also found out that boda boda operators get their first training after purchase of the motorbikes.

Training for motorcyclists does not require a lot of money unlike driving school where one would have to pay as much as Sh10,000.

Most operators interviewed admitted that they have never gone for formal training nor know a colleague who has undergone the same.
Most riders rely on their friends or relatives to train them, thereby putting the lives of their passengers at risk.

Joseph Kibe, a boda boda operator in Donholm Estate, Nairobi’s says he learnt how to ride in less than half an hour.

“My brother who works with the Nairobi County government owns two boda bodas. He always complained that the riders were stealing from him. I had completed Standard Eight and came to the city for the holidays in 2013 when he asked me to train how to ride a motorcycle,” he says.

Mr Kibe said he was able to ride a motorcycle after almost an hour of training and has never thought of going back to school or home in Nyandarua since then.

“I was shown how to change gears and how to accelerate. I don’t have time to go to my rural home because we are paid daily. I earn Sh300 a day and will go home after Christmas,” he says.

In Nakuru, Lazaro Makhanu, a resident of Lake Views Estate says when he went to buy a motorbike at a dealers shop in  town; he was asked if he could ride. “The salesperson told me there were people who could train me. Just across the road was a young man seated on his boda boda who showed me the basics and since then I have been riding the motorcycle,” he says.

Wilson Kibet says he bought his motor cycle in Eldoret town and had to ride for more than 30km to his rural home in Iten.

“I went to a stockist along Kapsabet road and I was shown how to engage the gears. I am a fast learner and realised that it was not so different from riding an ordinary bicycle,” he says, “but I was so tired by the time I reached home in the evening.”

Dealers however said they had no option but to allow buyers to ride their motor bikes. A salesman at Jialing Motorcycle, a stockist shop in Nairobi’s industrial area said they never ask their customers whether they have lincenses. “I have not seen it here. Everybody comes and rides away,” said the salesman who sought anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to the media.

He said he had seen people practicing by the road as their motor cycles were being serviced.

National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) chair Lee Kinyanjui attributes poor regulation in the boda boda industry for loss of lives in the country.

Speaking to The Standard on Saturday on phone, Mr Kinyanjui said lack of a training curriculum for the boda boda riders had contributed to the accidents.

“We say the riders are careless but the correct word is that they are not trained. There was no curriculum and with boda boda riding being a first line job for many school leavers, you expect a lot of short cuts,” he says. He disclosed that the authority has done institutional analysis and established that many Kenyans were losing their lives through boda boda accidents.

Many are hit as they try to evade traffic while others make U-turns even in the middle of highways, he added.

Traffic Commandant Charlton Murithi admits that boda boda riders are the biggest challenge to officers. He says among the leading law breakers are the riders followed by matatus. “We need laws to govern the boda boda industry. It is hard to manage them because they can use even pedestrian roads to escape.”

Bright Oywaya from Association for Safe international Road Travel says the country was not prepared when motor cycles were allowed to operate as public service transport.

Ms Oywaya who is an accident survivor says a rise in boda boda acquisition was an indicator of more accidents.

She says: “Road traffic crashes, injuries and deaths involving motorcycles (boda boda) are on the rise in the country and the numbers are bound to go higher if nothing is done. I think there should be a form of self-regulation in the industry.”

Kinyanjui says the Authority will be seeking the help of MPs through the County Development Fund and county government’s to help train boda boda riders in the country.

According WHO, between 2005 and 2011, motorcycle registration increased by nearly 40-fold and in 2011 motorcycles accounted for 70 per cent of all newly registered vehicles.

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