Saturday, March 18, 2017

Let us put Le Kidero out of our misery

The "matatu menace" doesn't exist in a vacuum; Nairobi's, and Kenya's, motorists are notorious for how they comply with the provisions of the Traffic Act or show fidelity to the prescriptions of the Highway Code. In other words, the chaos on our roads are not simply because matatu crews are more interested in a fast shilling and the rest of the motoring public be damned but also because motorists, generally, look on the rules of the road as mere suggestions, the commands of the uniformed traffic police as the gesticulations of a monkey with a rifle, and the common courtesies expected to smooth out inconveniences as the last tics of losers who always get their butts kicked.

I have just spent three hours in a matatu. A journey that shouldn't have exceeded half an hour even in the worst of Nairobi's now notorious weekend traffic, this one was a record of sorts. My matatu driver was no doubt an idiot but his idiocy wasn't the only reason that I spent the better part of what would have been an extremely productive weekend hostage to a Nairobian whose relationship with deodorant was more of an internet acquaintance than an actual relationship. The less said about her halitosis the better.

Nairobi's traffic chaos are the result of many factors but the key one is that very, very few motorists actually follow the Highway Code. You would think that it was  because they were willfully being scofflaws but that isn't the case; the traffic environment makes it almost impossible to follow the Highway Code faithfully. 

Take something as simple as lane markings and traffic signs. Fewer and fewer roads have lane markings anymore. Traffic signs are notable by their infrequency, on many roads, or invisibility. It is impossible to describe what this does to lane discipline or other traffic maneuvers. Jogoo Road, for example, is supposed to be, for the most part, a two-lane dual-carriage road, that is, two lanes on opposing side. But ordinary motorists and matatu crews have turned it into four lanes simply because the lane markings are not there at all. Because of this, when a motorist gets either to the City Stadium roundabout connecting Jogoo Road to Bunyala Road and Landhies Road, one encounters a bottleneck of epic proportions that can't be resolved unless traffic police are posted there permanently to funnel vehicles from the three roads as best as they can.

The same situation is witnessed on many roads entering the business district and the same chaos is visited on motorists all over the city. Coupled with the failure of the police to police the traffic effectively, traffic lights that seem like they operate on a random schedule, the nduthi menace that is getting out of hand, the spillover of pedestrians from footpaths onto the roads and the conversion of many roads into makeshift markets with veggie vendors squatting in oncoming traffic, chaos is all but guaranteed.

I am not asking simply for discipline to be instilled in all road users, motorists and pedestrians alike, but that the key elements that make up a road must be available at all times. In Nairobi it is safe to say that Evans Kidero and his county government have failed in their responsibilities to Nairobi's road-users. If he tries to tell you that he doesn't have the resources or that he doesn't have the co-operation of other agencies or that it is matatu crews' exclusive fault or any other excuse, please remind him that we didn't elect him to pass the buck or blame the dog that ate his homework. He has failed to offer leadership. In the words of Donald J. Trump, Mr Kidero is sad. A loser. On the 8th August, let us put him out of our misery and find someone else.

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