What you need to know:
- There are no cycling lanes in the country, which means that bikers have to weave in and out of traffic, competing with motorcycles, cars, buses, lorries and carts, most of which overlap shamelessly and which leave in their wake thick fogs of black smoke
The public relations industry does a terrible job of public relations. I mean, very few people can explain what people in PR really do. If you are a journalist, a policeman, construction worker or even a pimp, everybody knows your job function. PR guys would have to explain that persuasion is actually a legitimate business! Now, if you’d like a picture illustration of what good PR is, turn to page 3 of this newspaper.
There you will find a picture of First Lady Rachel Ruto cycling from Statehouse on her way to a UN meeting in Gigiri. Don’t take too much time drooling over the bike, because that’s not the point of this article. Okay, well the bike Mama Rachel is on is an enviable Trek Boone Disc 6 with SRAM Red eTap disc drivetrain, which is the best professional gear system in the world. But that’s not what I’m driving at.
Look at the optics.
The event that Ms Rachel was cycling to was themed on road safety. She arrived there on two wheels, obviously to emphasise the importance of adopting cleaner and healthier methods of transport. She could have turned back and left the meeting immediately after that and the message would still have arrived home, but she went ahead and delivered her speech on road safety. But guess what happened after that? You guessed right! She jumped into one of her usual SUVs, with their exhaust fumes pumping out poison as usual, and was driven back to Statehouse. I don’t know where the bike went to, I bet it was tucked away somewhere in the trunk of another car. Wonderful PR.
Still, that’s not the point I’m making. Thing is, as she cycled to Gigiri, the First Lady was surrounded by a sizable team of her security detail, in those monster vehicles reserved for key government figures. Their purpose was to ensure that no mad driver startles the FLOK, no daring villain tries to snatch her bike, and that she doesn’t lose her balance from the potholes and speed bumps along the way.
I don’t need to tell you that this is a privilege few cycling enthusiasts enjoy. Cycling in Kenya remains a minority sport. And to stay safe, Kenyan cyclists have had to become smart. If you ask, they will tell you their bike cost Sh15,000. Why? Because if we all knew that many of those two-wheeled things cost upwards of Sh100,000, none of them would be safe. If more people knew how much those too-tight lycra kits cost, the cyclists would probably start returning home naked, having been relieved of their clothing by some villain along the way.
Forget the thieves. There are no cycling lanes in the country, which means that bikers have to weave in and out of traffic, competing with motorcycles, cars, buses, lorries and carts, most of which overlap shamelessly and which leave in their wake thick fogs of black smoke.
And because the roads are not cycle friendly, you’ll have to navigate dangerous speed bumps and potholes, and deal with motorist who view riders as a nuisance. If you’re not careful, you’ll definitely be knocked down.
Yet, as the FLOK will tell you, cycling, even if practised at an amateur level, is a really great way of getting around. It has several benefits including increased cardiovascular fitness, increased muscular strength and flexibility, decreased stress levels and decreased body fat levels.
In addition, cycling could be the answer to the long traffic jams that so distress residents of most Kenyan cities. So, why wont the government should construct roads with cyclists in mind?