What you need to know:
- About 25% of students at Allidina Visram High School cycle daily to school.
- Even though they enjoy cycling from their distant homes to school, road unsafety remains a major concern due to lack of cycling lanes.
- 3 out of 4 students interviewed have been victims of reckless road users, mostly matatu and bodaboda operators.
Cycling is a potentially dangerous means of transport especially in the absence of cycling lanes.
But as the day dawns in Mombasa, one cannot miss a group of students cycling with the mission of getting to school in time.
Though perceived to be an unsafe way of traveling, most students here prefer the eco-friendly means of transport to boarding a matatu.
“Many students walk since they come nearby areas. Others travel by matatu but those who come from far - Likoni, Shanzu, Bamburi and Mtwapa in particular - come by bicycle,” says Mr Juma Mshimu, the principal of Allidina Visram High School.
Close to a quarter of students who attend Allidina school cycle even though their safety remains unguaranteed as no specific lanes have been set aside for cyclists.
“I have had cases where students are knocked down by vehicles, meaning the roads are not bicycle-friendly. If the government created separate lanes for cyclists, many problems would be solved," Mr Mshimu says.
But as former US President John F Kennedy said, “nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike", .
In an interview with the Nation, Swaleh Ibrahim, a 17-year-old form-one student at Allidina, says cycling saves him time and keeps him from getting into trouble with the teacher on duty.
“It takes me 15 minutes to get to school from Majengo. Unlike when using a matatu, I manoeuvre through the morning traffic jam hence get to school early. That way I get to avoid getting late and getting punished."
Form two student Elisha Maina notes his bicycle does not come with fares that are hiked from time to time.
“I choose my bicycle every day because it saves me from paying extra cash during the rainy season or when fuel prices shoot up dramatically.”
Cycling requires discipline, as Form Four student Abdhallah Hassan says, citing the speed and the time one takes on the road.
Hassan also cycles to keep fit, covering an average of eight kilometres every day from his home in Kisauni and across Nyali Bridge to school.
“I use the city as my gym. It’s a good alternative,” Hassan says as he parks his bicycle next to about 60 others.
He says he does not worry about the bicycle as there are CCTV cameras around the school.
“Our bikes were stolen before while we were in class but with the cameras, it very easy to track thieves so there are no such cases."
However, riding the two-wheel machine comes with its own challenges.
Out of the four students interviewed, only one has not been involved in an accident.
Many cyclists are hit by boda bodas, cars and other vehicles and are rarely compensated.
“We get harsh words from drivers almost every day. They hoot aimlessly, which makes me panic. At times they push us off the road and we end up knocked down,” adds Salim Ali, a Form Four student who uses the Bamburi-Ferry route.
In addition, safety is key for any road user but most students do not consider helmets a priority.
“We cannot use helmets. No one uses them. Anyone seen using them is usually considered backward by other students. It is as if they do not know how to cycle,” Ibrahim says adding he only wears one when going on long trips.