I have used this platform to tell my fellow drivers and the general public about things that affect our business and our livelihood. I have said most of what I think is the way out of the mess we are in right now and I’m happy that a lot of people have been reading my posts and many written back to me telling me how they have come to know facts about our industry and the nature of our business. I have also talked a lot about motor vehicles accidents; but i must confess it had not occurred to me about the fate of pedestrians and cyclists who use the same roads.
When I close my eyes and think back Since my days as a conductor, I can only imagine what this two groups of road users have been through in the hands of motorists especially trucks; buses and Matatu drivers. I would have continued ignoring them just like everybody else had somebody not knocked some useful senses in my head.
I received an E-mail from somebody who had read some of the articles I’ve posted in this blog and she was very concerned about a group of road users who use non-motorized means to go from point A to B. I was surprised by how she referred to cyclists and pedestrians as road users. Why? because Most of us don’t consider them as so. This is probably the reasons why a matatu driver would think its okay to drive at a sidewalk reserved for pedestrians at 80kph while sitting on the honks.
Since I joined the transport industry 12yrs ago; all I have heard from drivers is complains after complains of how cyclist are a nuisance to smooth flow of traffic. Many drivers see them as obstacles. I have witnessed cases where track loaders carry jericans filled with used oil and pour it on cyclists who they blame of attempting suicide by riding bicycles on highways.
The matatu drivers have coined a name for this group we call them Tu-mtu twa baiskeli, Many cases involving accidents with cyclists are heard every day when drivers talk about their day episodes and many honestly argue and believe that the road is for motor vehicles only. Majority pushes those off the road and you can even hear some drivers pride themselves on how they made a cyclist dive in the bush. The government has also not been keen enough to protect them as is evident in the planning and building of roads in major towns across the country. I don’t know whether it’s the ministry concerned with awarding tenders to road contractors that is not focused or it’s the contractors who present shoddy plans but whichever, the tax-payer ends up becoming the victim rather than the beneficially.
The recently expansion of Magadi road from Bomas of Kenya junction to Limpa; was quite a big relieve to many matatu drivers operating route 125 and 126 after many years of squeezing in a very narrow stretch. Victory Roads construction company; started on a very positive note and indeed widened the road. They did a almost perfect work but when the road was near completions something was missing, a lane for cyclists or even pedestrians. Perhaps they had not signed a contract for that part; but I refuse to believe that the government did not even pay for road signs and paint markings; not even for rail guards on the two notorious rivers that have so far claimed more than 8 lives this year; I guess somebody should be held responsible. But who?
As much as we would love to drive smoothly at high speed without obstractions- we should always remember that pedestrians and cyclists have a right to be on the same road and the best we can do is to appreciate them and give them space. On behalf of all matatu drivers; I extented our apologies to any cyclists pushed off the road and probaly injured. We will learn to respect your space. I hope the Government consider your welfare when they award the next road contract. Peace.
Another cause of accidents involving non-motorized road users that I’ve come to notice and is claiming many lives is lack of speed limit guideline in most of the urban centers. Speeding motorists hit pedestrians as they try to cross the roads especially when one side of the road is jam parked while the opposite is clear. This is the most common form of accidents in Ongata Rongai Township between the first stage and Nairobi women hospital. Passengers boarding and alighting from public service vehicles also fall victims as they wait for Matatus on the roadside since there are no designated bus-stops. Business owners and shoppers park on what is left of the roadside forcing pedestrians to walk on the roads.
Bringing back sanity on our roads will therefore take more than hefty fines and longer jail sentence. It will never be any wiser to fine a motorist millions of shillings for careless driving or jail them for life in-case of loss of live. The wise thing is to plan and build our roads safer for all users.
Prevention is known to work better than cure. Let our government see to it that roads are built fit for everyone. Rich and Poor.