Boda bodas are not cheap; the havoc they wreak is expensive

Boda boda operators wait for customers on Kimathi Street in Nairobi on September 18, 2015. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Boda boda riders are slaughtering and maiming our people.
  • Orthopaedic wards in Kenya are full.

  • There is no room for fresh patients because all the space is taken up by the victims of motorcycle accidents.

  • Boda boda riders also have no manners.

  • Our roads are like the arteries of a meat-loving Kenyan man: clogged.

I hate boda bodas. They are filthy, noisy, hot, and dangerous.

No human being should ever have to get on these contraptions.

They are also ridden by people who have no idea how to use a public thoroughfare and are clearly not socialised for peaceful co-existence.

Boda bodas are flies flitting over the carcass of our rotting city.

Any person who, even for one insane moment, imagines, thinks, encompasses, or otherwise pretends that a city can move on bikes should be sentenced to a term of not less than 10 years at Kamiti prison, where he should be subjected to the hardest labour and the most meagre diet of beans and posho until he comes to his senses.

WHY ARE BODA BODAS BAD?

First, they are slaughtering and maiming our people.

I do not want to look up the statistics of motorcycle fatalities in Kenya today because if I do then I might say something uncivil. Orthopaedic wards in Kenya are full.

There is no room for fresh patients because all the space is taken up by the victims of motorcycle accidents.

We thought matatus were bad. That was before we met boda bodas.

The wanton and needless loss of life and the load placed on our creaking healthcare system by serious injuries inflicted by these contraptions more than outweighs whatever benefits boda bodas confer as a cheap means of transport.

Secondly, boda boda riders have no manners.

I was waiting on the roadside the other day on Kimathi Street when a huge Chinese machine with two bulky men — one of them in shiny leather — nearly broke my hip.

I attribute my survival to good genes, a keen sense of self-preservation (and mainly luck).

The agility with which I wrapped myself around that machine belied the fact that I am an overweight, 47-year-old desk driver and would put to shame many a champion matador.

The rider was haggling with his passenger and had temporarily forgotten that he was supposed to be in charge of a machine.

So it swerved off the road and nearly killed an innocent pedestrian.

When I politely asked him to please be careful, he got in my face and tried to hit me with his passenger’s sweaty helmet.

“You have been drinking these illicit brews so early in the morning,” he said rather unkindly, menacing me with his snorting, smoking bike.

For the first time in my life, I called for help. Of course, neither my “friends” the taxi drivers nor the commandos who are supposed to guard us came to my aid.

To my eternal gratitude, another brave Nation employee, obviously embarrassed by his editor’s predicament, came to rescue me and the bully exploded off in a blur of smelly leather and muddy boots.

My car looks like the forehead of a violent drunk, one which is regularly gone over by the fists of an exasperated wife.

It is spotted from being rammed by bikes, especially at the lights.

And when they ram into you, they shout, “Let me park safely we talk,” and snort off in a cloud of smoke and peals of cynical laughter.

Thirdly, our roads are like the arteries of a meat-loving Kenyan man: clogged.

You can barely move without your bullbar coming to within centimetres of the head of a gurgling baby in the arms of his loving mum, her generous rump spread over the rear of a motorcycle and her thunder thighs swallowing the emaciated waist of the rider.

At other times there is more than one passenger on that flimsy craft in heavy, fast-moving traffic and one wants to just park and run away at the mere thought of what would happen in the event of an accident.

But what renders me utterly apoplectic is that riders do not know how to use the road.

When everyone else is slowing down at the lights, these people will maintain speed until they are suddenly stopped by the bumpers of law-abiding motorists.

If you are stopped at the lights, they will jump to the other lane and zoom off against the traffic.

You will meet them at the roundabout, weaving in and out of traffic, going the wrong way.

They will not indicate their intentions, they do not know what lanes are for, and driving in Nairobi today consists in a succession of boda boda riders cutting in front of you at the most unlikely of times in the most dangerous of places.

In some parts of the country, women have scarred thighs from being burnt by the hot exhaust pipes of badly made and madly used motorcycles.

I know many people will say that I am being unfair and that boda boda riders are just good people trying to earn an “honest” living and that they provide a “cheap” and “convenient” service.

Wait until they burn your wife’s thighs.

And wait until you are under a truck and then you will tell us how “cheap” and “convenient” that looks.

In any case, isn’t “cheap” and “convenient” what buses are supposed to be for?

I have never asked Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero for anything, personally or officially.

But I would like to ask him a question, with the election a year and two months away: You said motorcycles would not be allowed into the city centre. What happened to that, bro?

Away with boda bodas.

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