Reviews & Profiles
The boda boda that is a taxi
Posted Friday, December 13 2013 at 02:00
Most people use boda bodas to travel short distances. Increasingly, however, boda riders are offering passengers longer rides from the suburbs to the city centre, a service both passenger and rider are enjoying.
They come in handy, are usually available at any time, are good at beating traffic jams, and connecting from one corner of town to another. I am talking about motorbike taxis commonly known as boda bodas. Most of us have used them at some point and know how helpful they can be.
And in true fashion, the boda riders have come up with yet other services to offer desperate passengers. Most of the time, people will jump on a boda to take them a short distance away, an average of a few kilometres. These days, however, some riders are now including long distances on their services.
During peak hours (early mornings and late evenings) when traffic slows to a near halt, taxis disappear and the few that are available hike the fares leaving several passengers lining up on the roadside waiting for any sort of transport. Boda boda riders have started to take advantage of this and ferry passengers to town. The riders who do this tend to be those who ply their trade in the city centre.
Usually, the rider ferries two people at a go - who are not together - at a fee slightly higher than the normal taxi fare. The passengers on the other hand include all kinds of people at a stage or roadside. So when a boda picks you up, you do not really get to choose whom to share the ride with male or female, old or young, adult or child. Once the bike is “loaded” the rider sets off for town at breakneck speed, all the while trying to beat the jam and get to the final destination in the shortest time possible.
The journey which would take about one hour in a taxi is covered in less than 30 minutes.
Rita Nantumbwe, a Nateete resident, is a regular user of the early morning boda boda.
“I am a heavy sleeper; by the time I wake up, taxis are for fighting for, yet I do not have the energy to push and shove so I resorted to the motorbikes. I don’t mind sharing the ride with anyone and I prefer being ‘sandwiched’. That way I do not get cold or even fall off in case we hit a pothole.”
Alice Nakibuule is also grateful that she can get transported this way, saying that she usually uses these bodas in the evening when she is rushing home to breast-feed her child. Although the fare is higher by Shs1,000, Nakibuule is not complaining much. “If you factor in the time a taxi would spend driving through the maddening Bwaise jam to Kawempe, the Shs1,000 is nothing.
My only problem with this mode of transport is the men; one time a man held on to me so tightly, he was touching me all over and I had to tell him off,” she says.
For the boda riders, the extra few shillings is very welcome
Ibrahim Sserwada, a boda boda rider, who parks at Nakasero Primary School stage and a resident of Bweyogere, says, “Every morning I pick two passengers on my way to work and each pays between Shs2,000 to Shs2,500 depending on the number of people at the stage.
I use this money as my entandikwa for fuel. I do the same in the evening when I am going back home and use the money I make to buy milk for my children. I prefer to transport men because they are usually steady unlike ladies especially the older ones. They think every turn is a ticket to a fall and they want to be taken slowly yet time is money,” Sserwada says.
On his part, Sula Mpaata a boda rider and resident of Kagoma on Bombo Road, says, “I also come with two passengers every morning. Besides making some money, I also get company. It’s not fun riding all the way on my own.”
For many passengers who use this form of transport, the allure is being able to beat traffic jams which at times take hours. Take Ivan Mugume, a resident of Zana on Entebbe Road for example. He says, “The only easy way of beating the Entebbe Road traffic jam in the morning is when you are a big shot being escorted with a lead car with sirens or using a boda. Because I am not a big man, the boda comes in handy.” He is however cautious and says that he only uses the boda in the mornings and evenings but not at night because some of the riders at that time are thugs.”
Mugume’s fears are not to be waved off. Brian Sekidde, a resident of Lungujja, had a nasty experience when he jumped onto one such boda late.
“One night as I left Club Rouge for home, although I could afford a cab I opted for a boda to save some money, but on the way the rider picked another passenger. The new passenger claimed he was going to Makerere. I had no problem with that but when we reached Makerere, the man said he was going to Nana Hostel. Mid way there, the boda stopped and the man behind me suddenly started strangling me. As I fought to free myself the rider was busy emptying my pockets. They ordered me to take off my clothes. I took off the shirt, shoes and as I was removing the trousers a car appeared and the thugs rode off. After that experience unless I know you, I can never share a boda.”
It is because of such incidences that police discourage the public from using these bodas. Also, carrying two people is not allowed. Dr Steven Kasiima the police director of traffic says it’s illegal for boda bodas to transport more than a passenger at any given time.
“That is overloading, sometimes the passengers have young children and luggage and moreover the passengers do not have protective gear. In case of an accident the injuries are usually fatal,” he says. Love or hate them though, it seems for now, these boda bodas have come and conquered and are here to stay.