Shame of city roads without bus stops left for passengers

A section of Thika Superhighway from Muthaiga footbridge, Nairobi on January 20, 2024. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Daily, it is common for passengers to board or alight from anywhere along the road – a practice that not only endangers lives but also contributes to public transport chaos and confusion.

Neither is it strange for matatus to stop right in the middle to pick or drop passengers. Stopping at the few existing designated stages has long been forgotten thanks to lack of enforcement on the part of traffic police and city askaris.

Matatus drop and pick travellers from any spot at the sight of human presence. It does not matter whether the place is a black spot, steep, bend, close to an exit, entrance, intersection, bridge  or roundabout.

Bus stops should not be located immediately in advance of an intersection because of the restriction of sight distance that this would impose on drivers approaching the intersection, according to the August 2023 Road Design Manual by ministry of Roads and Transport

Further, the bus stops should not be too far away because many passengers may want access to the roads forming the intersection.

“Ideally the bus stop should, except near roundabouts, be located after the intersection but not more than 50m from it,” reads the manual.

In an ideal situation, the bus stops in a big city should exist after a specific distance – it could be after every 400 metres or one kilometre depending on class of the road.

But this is not the case along Jogoo Road, Juja Road, Lunga Lunga Road, Magadi Road, Kagundo Road among others where there are no standard designated stages for boarding and alighting.

The situation is no better along Mombasa Road, Thika Superhighway, Ngong Road, Waiyaki Way, Outer Ring Road where matatu crews are notorious for picking and dropping passengers along carriages instead of service lanes.

Further worse is the fact that the few bus stops that were designated several years back are in a state of disrepair, having been neglected.

The sign posts, shelters and ledges that existed have either worn out or been vandalised adding to the misery of commuters who have no choice but board or alight from anyway.

Some of these bus stops can be an eyesore; having either been converted into garbage dumping sites or locations for depositing human waste.

While others have been taken over by traders who use them to eke a living. This state of affairs keeps off many commuters.

According to Joseph Angote, a resident Huruma, he eschews bus stops following a nauseating encounter.

Being early in the morning when activities were yet to pick up, Angote walked to one of the bus stops along Juja Road where he thought it was safe to wait a matatu from there.

Hardly had the 42-year-old calmed at the stage when his nostrils were hit with a stench. On looking around, Angote discovered he had stepped on fresh human waste.

“I went back to the house my day having been ruined. From that day, I made a decision of not using designated bus stops because they are not safe and attractive,” states Angote whose encounter is not a strange phenomenon on city roads.

City Planner, Mairura Omwenga, is attributing the sad state of affairs to pervasive indiscipline in a society that is not accustomed to the rule of law.

 “We lack discipline as a society while our enforcement is wanting. And this indiscipline is displayed by senior government officials whom we often witness being driven or driving on the wrong side. What then do you expect from ordinary citizens when those in key positions lead in breaking the law,” says Mairura who is also the chair of Town and County Planners Association of Kenya (TCPAK).

Bus stops, he notes, should be well maintained and sheltered, unlike the current situation of neglect.

Most of them have either been abandoned or taken over by street families – a situation Muirura notes is a reflection of our attitude towards amenities that are supposed to make life easy and comfortable.

“In major towns across the town, bus stops are created to make public transport more effective, but in our case, it is the opposite since we don’t value them. Every day I come across commuters who want to be picked or dropped away from the stage,” says the University of Nairobi lecturer.

The exact number of designated bus stops within and around the city is not clear. According to Matatu Owners Association (MOA) out of the 200, 000 matatu in Kenya, 20,000 operate in the capital city that is permanently in a traffic jam mode largely contributed by PSVs either overlapping, driving in the wrong direction or causing obstruction by stopping in the middle of roads to pick and drop commuters.

Data by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows that traffic congestion in the capital city costs the economy Sh100 billion annually, with the average travel time within the Nairobi Metropolitan Area and Central Business District (CBD) being 57 minutes, making the capital city among the world’s most congested towns.

Peter Murima, chairman, Motorists Association of Kenya, links traffic jams to obstruction and insufficient bus stops along key roads. He blames matatu crews especially along Thika Superhighway and Outer Ring Road of stopping along carriages instead of the provided service lanes.

While within the CBD and roads under the county government, Murima faults the planning department at City Hall for allowing matatus to occupy most of the streets and lanes.

“Obstruction is a major offense because of the danger it poses to other road users. Unfortunately, this happens most of the time since we don’t have enough standard bus stops in the form of lay-bys,” observes Murima.

According to Shadrack Mugendi, a driver plying mostly along Outer Ring, Jogoo, Lunga lunga and Kangundo roads, the main reason why they stop in the middle is that these roads have no known designated stages.

Mugendi says intersections leading into residential places serve as stages.

“I challenge you to drive on Kangundo Road or Lunga Lunga Road and point to me a single designated bus stops. Along Outer Ring Road while heading to Donholm, the space that had been reserved for angle parking near Pipeline has been converted into a stage,” says the driver.

Mugenda claims sometimes circumstances force them to stop in the middle of the road to allow their customers alight especially those with disabilities, experiencing illness or carrying luggage.

“We frequently encounter and sympathise with such situations, otherwise you risk attracting the wrath of other passengers for failing to stop for a disabled or sick commuter to alight,” says the man accusing traffic police for failing to enforce order.

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