How lack of sidewalks is endangering lives of Kenyans

Pedestrians account for the highest fatalities in 2024, despite KeNHA's pledge to improve safety

In Summary
  • Damage occurred to the existing roads and road reserves following the relocation of fibre cables, power lines, water and sewer pipes
  • Since its completion, promises have been made to restore the old Mombasa highway and Waiyaki Way
Nairobi Expressway under construction.
Nairobi Expressway under construction.

Construction of the Nairobi Expressway - termed as a legacy project by the Jubilee government - has inconvenienced motorists and pedestrians alike.

A lot of changes were made to pave the way for the infrastructure. Damage occurred to the existing roads and road reserves, following the relocation of fibre cables, power lines, water and sewer pipes.

These relocation activities affected the sidewalks and pedestrian footpaths as well as roadside drainage on existing roads.

Since its completion, promises have been made to restore the old Mombasa highway and Waiyaki Way.

The promise, now long overdue, has not been kept since May 2022 when then Transport CS James Macharia said the contract signing was at the final stages.

In 2022, the Kenya National Highways Authority pledged to improve on the safety of pedestrians. 

“Pedestrian footpaths are also included in the scope of works to be undertaken,” the Authority said that November.

Data released by the National Transport and Safety Authority between January and April 1, shows 7,198 Kenyans were involved in road accidents, which was an increase of 1,908 compared to last year.

The data further shows that pedestrians account for the highest fatalities in 2024 at 436, which is an increase to 374 of last year. Motorcyclists fatalities are at 276, which is a decrease from 311 in 2023.

KeNHA's director general Kung’u Ndung’u, gave an assurance that funds were made available for the rehabilitation.

This was in February last year, when Moja Expressway marked a 10-million-cars milestone since its opening.

Not much has been done yet since China Road and Bridge Corporation was awarded the Sh9 billion tender.

The repairs, which were to be done along the old Mombasa road connecting to Westlands, have been delayed in most sections, putting the lives of pedestrians at risk. 

The rehabilitation was to take place before the Expressway was constructed.

While KeNHA asked for submission of pictorial evidence after a phone call six months ago, not much has been done to address the concerns raised.

Of concern, pedestrian walkways in critical areas are yet to be constructed along the busy highway, leaving passengers exposed to the danger of being knocked down by vehicles and motorcyclists.

 A section of Waiyaki Way from the bus stop next to Lion Place, for instance, is nearly impassable, with huge stones and open manholes and pits.

Down the stretch, off Karuna close along the ACK St Marks perimeter, pedestrians are forced to walk on the road as a part of the fence encroaches upon an area reserved for walkways.

Pedestrians are often forced to walk on the side of the highway, putting themselves at risk of being knocked down by vehicles or motorbikes coming from behind.

A metal barrier at the perimeter is only a metre from the road, and should vehicles or bikes veer off the road, the pedestrian is left with little room to scamper for safety.  

The situation is worsened by the lack of security lights along the same path. A person walking at night risks a fall into one of the manholes. 

Ongoing rains in Nairobi have seen the open manholes filled with water, making them impassable.

Speaking to the Star, Alex Otenyo, a resident from Kangemi who frequently uses the road at Westlands, said the area poses a danger to pedestrians every day.

“When there is traffic, vehicles occupy most part of the road. We are therefore forced to walk on the muddy surface, which is an inconvenience to us. Anyone going to work can’t get there as clean as they left their homes,” he said.

He urged KeNHA to ensure the concerns of Kenyans are addressed by having safe sidewalks, which can be used to avoid accidents.

Before the roadworks, a footbridge existed, enabling road users from the Westlands mosque to cross over to the St Marks church side. 

This was demolished to accommodate the Expressway. 

Mary (not her real name), who works at an establishment along the School Lane, says KeNHA should consider having a zebra crossing at the same place where the footbridge used to exist.

As there are two bus stops on either side, having a pedestrian crossing will ensure the safety of road users, who include pupils from the nearby Westlands primary school.

A security officer working at Lion Place next to the busy highway, says she has witnessed several accidents since the beginning of the year involving pedestrians, motorcyclists and vehicles. 

“There have been accidents happening here for a while. To make matters worse, there isn’t a slip road for vehicles to use while joining or exiting Karuna Close, off Waiyaki Way, at the ACK St Marks church junction,” the guard, who requested anonymity, said.

When an assessment was done to create a pathway for pedestrians, the perimeter fence at the church was found to have been built on a road reserve.

Despite other establishments along the same stretch moving their perimeter walls by almost two metres to pave way for a sidewalk, the church has not yet done the same.

Efforts by the Star to reach KeNHA for a response were futile by the time of this publication.

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