Hell hath no fury like boda boda riders after one of their own is involved in an accident. They ride so fast and in large numbers, hooting loudly and obstructing traffic to rally behind their colleague, even if he was in the wrong.
The riders scare motorists and at times cause traffic jams and accidents. They have burned vehicles around the country following road accidents, tampering with and complicating investigations. The latest incident was in Kisumu, where their burning of a matatu on Friday night led to day-long clashes that left at least 10 motorcycles torched and five matatus vandalised.
And in Nairobi yesterday, police had to lob teargas to boda boda riders on Kenyatta Avenue next to Serena Hotel, engaging in running battles in the wake of City Hall attempts to bar them from the CBD.
The riders’ solidarity whenever one of them is in trouble has amazed many of their customers and the society at large. They say the work they do has brought them together, forcing them to share what they have, including each other’s problems.
“We help one another in cases like if one of us has a lost family member, has a fundraising, or when a member dies. We assist the family with burial arrangements,” said Kipai Mugo, chairman of the Limuru town boda boda group.
According to the Motorcycle Assembly Association of Kenya, an average of 14.4 million people ride motorcycles every day. Ninety per cent of them are boda boda riders, who earn an average of Sh1,000 each a day. So how can the government prevent this transport and economic lifeline from descending into anarchy at the slightest provocation?
The riders often operate at cross purposes with motorists, forcing them to overlap in the streets. Rider Francis Gicheru says it’s hectic to ride in front of a car, since some motorists drives so close to them.
“Some drivers do not consider a motorcyclist to be a road user. They overtake a motorcycle carelessly, pushing you off the road. They don’t care if you will fall in a ditch or whatever,” Gicheru, who is also the chairman of Northern Uplands Motorcycle Sacco, said.
He said sometimes, the rider is hit and killed by the car or is maimed and admitted to hospital. “Where is one supposed to ride when a car which is behind you keeps on hooting at you to allow it to pass and there is no walk path, the road is a two way and there are oncoming vehicles?” he asks.
“When the motorist squeezes himself to overtake, the rider is accidentally hit and what follows is the wrath of other motorcyclists, which comes so fast, none of their elected officials can control it.”
In a fit, the riders beat up the driver and passengers and loot the vehicle, alleging the driver caused the accident. At times, they burn the vehicle.
Gicheru urged motorists using the Nairobi-Nakuru and Nairobi-Mai Mahiu highways to be careful while overtaking motorcyclists, saying a lot of boda boda accidents are caused by motorists overtaking.
“It very important we take care of each other. We ask our riders to be very careful as we urge the motorists to consider the fact that motorcyclists are human beings and taxpayers, who have families that depend on them,” he said.
LACK VALID DOCUMENTS
The Limuru Court Users Committee met boda boda officials from Lari and Limuru subcounty at Tigoni police station, during a road safety campaign. Present were senior principal magistrate Everlyne Olwade and senior resident magistrate Karen Njalale.
Also present were county community policing chairman Peter Kiugu, Limuru DCI boss Mwenda Itheiba and traffic police bosses Johnbosco Mulei of Tigoni police station and Charles Galgitele. Olwade said the committee wanted to listen to problems faced while handling the boda boda menace.
Limuru rider Peter Ndung’u, who was involved in an accident two years ago, told the committee his workmates keep asking him why he had not been compensated, despite having driving and insurance documents at the time.
He said a matatu driver who was alleged to have caused the accident in August 2016 was charged but the case has never been determined by the court. Ndung’u said in his group of 23 motorcyclists, only seven have insurance covers, and among them, only five riders have valid driving licences.
He said most riders in rural areas do not renew their driving licences and insurance covers, despite wearing clean, reflective jackets. “Once the one-year insurance cover expires, very few riders renew them. Some never ride in towns, sticking to villages where they cannot meet traffic police officers,” Ndung’u said.
The committee also heard that some motorcyclists are involved in robberies, including armed robberies. These are problematic since they are not registered in known groups.
CALL FOR RESTRAINT
The judicial officials and the police urged the riders to observe the law and avoid taking the law into their hands. Limuru DCI boss Itheiba urged them to secretly identify the motorcycles they suspect are involved in crime.
He pointed out that some robbers waylay them, kill them and rob them of their motorcycles. “A lot of illegal activities are conducted by people who ride on boda boda motorcycles, such as transporting bhang and chang’aa, and breaking into people’s homes,” he said.
“Help us get the unknown motorcycles crisscrossing our towns and we shall intercept them very quickly. When the security is beefed up, even you yourselves will enjoy working and living in a secure environment. We must work together.”
Tigoni traffic boss Mulei urged the riders not to burn vehicles involved in motorcycle accidents. He told them to report accidents and avoid removing and hiding their motorcycles at home whenever they are involved in accidents.
“Ride at a moderate speed. The recommended speed is 60km per hour for a 150CC motorcycle. Ensure your motorcycle is in good condition, you have a valid driving licence and insurance certificate, are wearing visible reflective jackets and protective clothes, as well as a helmet,” he said.
Senior principal magistrate Olwade told the officials to convert all their groups into saccos and strengthen them to help the officials manage members properly. She said the officials will be able to ensure all riders are disciplined and observe traffic rules as they develop financially together.
“You must lead your members in changing the bad image the society views you in. You deserve respect because some of you are parents, leaders in other groups and need to leave a legacy in the motorcycle sector,” she said.
Olwade raised concern over the cases brought to court, such as riding without a driving licence, riding with an expired driving licence, lack of an insurance certificate cover, as well as carrying more than one pillion passenger. She said with saccos, such requirements could be facilitated.
The judicial official said about 80 per cent of robbery and robbery with violence cases involve thugs using motorcycles to run away. She urged riders to alert police to unknown motorists operating in their regions, especially at night.
Senior resident magistrate Njalale advised the boda boda officials to get copies of the Traffic Act from traffic police, so they can be well informed. “The problem ailing our society is lack of knowledge. If some didn’t go to driving schools, it’s obvious they do not know anything about the Traffic Act,” she said.