Nairobi Expressway won’t solve traffic woes

Nairobi Expressway

Nairobi Expressway along Waiyaki way, Westlands. The expressway will help in reducing traffic jam in the capital city.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

 A story that caught my eye last week was that of Tom Cruise, the US actor known for films such as Top Gun, Gerry Maguire, Mission Impossible and Top Gun: Maverick, among others. It was reported that he was a guest at an event celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne. Apparently, despite being worth allegedly over $600 million and counting, a licensed pilot, with a collection of classic cars, he chose to walk to the venue of the event, which was held within Windsor Castle.

Even the shortest walk from a hotel to the castle, I would imagine would be a bother to many egotistical individuals. However, Tom Cruise, walk he did and went about mingling and greeting members of the public on his way to the Queen’s horse show.

A Kenyan celebrity or politician worth a fraction of what Tom Cruise is worth won’t be seen dead walking to an event of that magnitude. If there are people made for red carpets, then they are the hoi polloi of Africa, who won’t skip a moment to show the world their status even if it came courtesy of a temporary government job.

Road for the rich

When the owner of Facebook (now Meta) went and had fish lunch at a Nairobi kibanda and dare he without a suit and tie, he was vilified, not by foreign media but ours and Kenyan celebrities who could just not get their heads around the fact that one of the richest men in the world could roll about in a pair of jeans, a simple top and sneakers.

What most debe tupus failed to realise is that the richest and most genuinely successful people have nothing more to prove and must watch their hard-earned pennies. They know it can all end tomorrow, theirs was not stolen from government coffers but through blood, sweat and tears.

The moral of my tale is that we have too many very ‘important’ people clogging traffic in Nairobi. Ego is what is congesting city roads. No number of expressways are going to solve our traffic problem if we have every ‘officer’ in government apportioned a car, spare cars for their aids and outriders on motor bikes in some cases.

As if that is not enough, they have become accustomed to being driven illegally against the traffic and even overtaking traffic because they have the ‘power’ to do so and not because it clears the traffic. If anything, such manoeuvres have ended up making traffic worse.

Because while they bully other motorists to get nowhere faster, the traffic with ordinary vehicles piles up as it waits to let wakubwa go. Even places like Mombasa, which really is a two road small island and not built for heavy traffic, is now congested by vehicles beyond belief.

The issue of establishing an effective and reliable public transport system in Nairobi has been brought up by successive governments and 60 years after independence, we are yet to witness one.

The closest we got to recently is the NYS buses, which is more of a knee-jerk reaction than a genuine attempt to use them long-term as mode of public transport. Painting and marking of roads to prepare for public transport followed and to-date, there hasn’t been a system that we can truly call the Nairobi transport system destined for the white marked road sections.

What was hastened is another expensive brick and mortar in the name of expressway that may make it easier for the rich to wheeze about quicker while looking down on the informal settlements and rusty matatus below them but will be nowhere near decongesting Nairobi roads.

Private cars

The city needs to discourage use of private cars but without workable public transport, many Kenyans won’t heed the call. Matatus are filling the void left by lack of public transport system but their reputation for chaos doesn’t make it easier for many who just want a peaceful ride to and from work either in a car, tram, or bus.

With the working from home concept now being adopted by many countries, it might be worth encouraging those who can to work from home to reduce use of private vehicles. Insecurity and lack of cycle lanes stop many people from riding to work. Pollution is a big problem in Nairobi and a green mode of transport is what our cities desperately need.

Expressways may help cities look developed and cut journey times but may not always be the solution to decongesting cities such as Nairobi where the public transport system is non-existent and there is no political will to follow up on policies. For example, what happened to car-free days?

Mombasa and Nairobi deserve an effective public transport system to save time and speed up economic activities in our two major economic hubs. Hence, use of private cars should be discouraged.

Government must lead by example by reducing the number of officials allowed cars to help ease traffic. Why can’t they share cars, walk or cycle to work?

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo


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