- On Sunday, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja ordered street families and hawkers to keep off footbridges.
- He said it is a matter of security for the residents of Nairobi, following a wave of muggings and general insecurity in the city.
Footbridges in Nairobi were erected to prevent accidents involving pedestrians.
However, despite the intentions, these designated areas have been taken over by traders and hawkers who have converted them into their permanent business hubs.
Not left behind, street families and beggars use the footbridges as their shelter, especially during rainy seasons.
Boda boda riders have also managed to use the facilities as a shortcut to evade taking long rides on the highways.
Muggers and thieves have also turned the footbridges into a crime zone where they target pedestrians and traders.
At the Ngara footbridge, the situation is worse as pedestrians queue to pass as hawkers have occupied huge spaces.
People going in opposite directions struggle to get past each other.
The situation is not different along Outering Road at the footbridge linking Buruburu to Umoja estate.
Since it was erected by the Kenya Urban Roads Authority, traders converted it into a trading place.
Boda boda riders who do not want to use the road to get to the Outering-Kangundo Road roundabout or Manyanja Road prefer the footbridge.
This has left pedestrians feeling unsafe.
With no functional streetlights, the footbridge is also a crime scene where thieves target the public.
People are attacked by gangs armed with knives as early as minutes past 8 pm.
Tena and Umoja residents say the problem at the footbridge started in August 2020 when the Mutindwa market was demolished and encroachers were driven out of railway land.
“The traders who were left without structures started selling their items around the footbridge, but now they have invaded the structure right at the entrance of the footpath,” Hesbon Mutinda, a resident of Umoja said.
“On one of the stairs, they have placed their items, leaving us with little space left to walk. The bodabodas have also found their way to the footbridge, posing a danger of running us over,” Winnie Akello said.
The Central Business District, Landhies Road footbridge had been taken over by street families and hawkers.
Pedestrians started avoiding it. It has remained abandoned, with shoe cleaners spotted on and off.
The footbridge had also become a chill-out spot for muggers and thieves, prompting pedestrians to use alternative places to cross the busy road.
The footbridges and the walkways are no longer safe. Concerned residents say using them is more dangerous than crossing roads and what was to be a solution is instead making their lives difficult.
The footbridge across Haile Selassie Avenue is rarely used by pedestrians. It is almost fully occupied by traders, especially shoe vendors.
“Just by the sight of it, I can’t use that footbridge because you rarely even see people walking there. And with the street boys sitting under the bridge, I don’t feel safe,” Jessica Nduku said.
“Even before the 2020 Covid-19 curfew was imposed, the footbridge was a place of crime where muggers used to wait for commuters to pass by and then ambush. I’d rather attempt and cross the road carefully,” Isaac Omollo said.
With the footbridges having been taken over, pedestrians are at times forced to walk at the roadside as traders have occupied the walkways.
Although they understand that traders and business people are trying to earn a living amid a pandemic, the residents want the walkways to be left for the right purposes.
“I only wonder for how long this matter will be the subject of residents' concern. It’s a visible problem, yet the authorities don’t seem to share. We can only lament and pray, otherwise, the place is a risk, a nuisance that should immediately be tackled,” Harun Omega said.
In February 2020, at least 320 traders were arrested as police intensified their operation to decongest footbridges in Nairobi.
The then Nairobi regional police boss Philip Ndolo said they want to reduce crime and ease congestion on the bridges.
The directive to nab those hawking on the footbridges had been issued by Deputy Inspector General of Police Edward Mbugua.
On Sunday, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja ordered street families and hawkers to keep off footbridges.
He said it is a matter of security for the residents of Nairobi, following a wave of muggings and general insecurity in the city.
The county boss said he would find space for hawkers to conduct their businesses, away from footbridges.
Sakaja and his team also restored and cleaned Landhies and Jogoo road footbridges that had become a dangerous harbour and mugging scene.