Sunday November 25 2012

Where bodas obey rules

Boda Boda

Boda Boda in Kigali. File Photo 

By Anthony Wesaka

Coming from a chaotic city, Kampala, where the boda boda riders operate in a lawless manner, my maiden visit to Kigali, in Rwanda recently, made me think I was in dream land, as I observed the motorcycle riders do their thing in an orderly manner.
Kigali city just like any developing city in the world, is no exception to using the motorcycle transport as it is the quickest and most preferred means of transport especially when one is late or needs to beat traffic jam.

Their boda bodas are locally referred to as moto-moto and the riders are called abamotari.
According to Charles Rusimbi, the in-charge of Youth, Sports and Culture at Kigali City Council (KCC), the orderliness among the moto-moto riders, is largely brought about beacause they formed cooperatives that bring them together.

Rusimbi explained that there are about 18 cooperatives that work hand in hand with the traffic police to enforce discipline and law and also acts as a saving scheme.
He said their main aim is to have the road users religiously follow the traffic signs without the presence of a traffic officer.

He further explained that for any moto-moto rider to start riding in Kigali City, they must be registered or risk being arrested, fined or banned from riding in the city. While the rule of helmets has never really been enforced in Uganda, In Kigali both the rider and I had to wear helmets which have his identification numbers, well as mobile phone number engraved on them. This I learnt enables authorities track the moto motos.

Just one passenger please
Throughout my weeklong visit to Kigali, not at any time did I see any moto-moto carrying more than one passenger. Additionally, female passengers, are supposed to sit astride like men and they are not allowed to take their babies on the motorbikes. A uniform jacket which has the trade mark of giant telecom company Tigo is worn by every amotari.

Kigali has designated parking stages for riders where they wait for passengers. You hardly find riders roaming in town looking for passengers; instead it is the passengers who move to those designated stages for their services. The best part is that riders are given training and riding permits before hitting the road. According to Rusimbi, this move is aimed at reducing on the rate of accidents since the riders would have had hands-on practice instructed by experts and also are able to read the traffic rules.

In Uganda it’s the opposite as anyone who can ride a motorbike starts business, little wonder the high rate of accidents caused by the boda boda riders in the city.

Traffic lights are not toys
I was so amazed when it came to the traffic lights, the moto-moto riders unlike here in Uganda, stop and follow the traffic lights and move when they are supposed to move. They also do not ride on the pavements as is the case here.
Despite such stringent measures, there are errant moto-moto riders who do not obey the rules put in place. New Times national newspaper, quotes this year’s police statistics showing that motorcycles are responsible for 80 per cent of road accidents recorded annually, especially in Kigali city.

The causes of accidents are attributed to reluctance by motorcyclists to observe traffic rules and regulations in order to ensure road safety.
In Uganda, police statistics and the Injury Control Centre lately have shown that users of boda boda and the riders themselves have been killed in more crashes than all other vehicle accidents.

According to Police Statistics from the Traffic Department, in 2008, out of 16,736 accidents, a total of 3,434 were caused by boda boda riders and 1,001 by bicycles. 47 per cent of the accidents in that year were also caused by motor cycles and bicycles, which represent 99.9 per cent for boda boda and 1 per cent for private use. The trend was even worse in 2009 and continued to slip in 2010. With such overwhelming numbers, Uganda has a lot to learn from its neighbour, Rwanda.