End city traffic mess now and protect road users

Traffic jam

Heavy traffic jam along University Way, Nairobi. 

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

A serious campaign on road safety has been on for months. Dubbed Safe Steps Road Safety Africa, the drive coincides with carnage on Kenyan roads. Sponsors include Prudence Foundation, Action for Road Safety, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Didier Drogba Foundation and the Nation Media Group.

As Kenyans mourned ex-President Mwai Kibaki, one of the legacies cited was expansion of roads. They also remembered him for a policy that saw taxes on motorcycles zero-rated, making them cheap. This revolutionised public transport.

Unfortunately, these legacies also led to anguish. Not that the thoroughfares did not exist. They got facelifts that turned them into high-speed multiple carriageways.

According to the National Transport and Safety Authority and police, some 1,591 people were involved in road accidents as of January 25, 2022, compared to 4,571 who died in 2021. Of the 1, 591, boda bodas accounted for 105 while 107 were pedestrians.

Lack of enforcement of county and national government laws have seen drivers push pedestrians out of designated walkways. The situation is a tragicomedy of sorts in the city. When Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) was established, it fixed dilapidated roads and other amenities that had collapsed under the Mike Sonko administration.

Residents thought it would only be a matter of time before the madness on roads was sorted out.

The term of the NMS is coming to an end but lawlessness on roads persists.

We have heard that the NMS has begun an overhaul of the inspectorate department through training on traffic management, communication skills, protocol compliance and public relations.

Efforts are also being made at the National Assembly to make sanctions on traffic offences more severe. The Kenya Roads (Amendment) Bill, 2022 is the cure for traffic carnage and needs the support of all.

When Nairobi traffic marshals watch indifferently as riders break laws with impunity, they become complicit in the absurdity of the mess.

One only needs to spend a minute or two at traffic lights to see the marshals look the other way as riders approach junctions from all directions, making it perilous for pedestrians to know when to cross.

Years ago, road safety was an integral part of education. But that is no longer the case in Nairobi. Disorderly and boisterous motorcycle operators use any and every available open space as police and city county enforcers watch.

The government must address the traffic mess and road carnage in Nairobi to protect the right to life of road users.

Mr Churchill is the executive director of the Kenya National Civil Society Centre; [email protected]


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