MOTORING

Kenyans who love traffic jams

While some lament loss of time and money, others celebrate business

In Summary

• Getting stuck in traffic for hours is a part of life for many Kenyans especially in Nairobi

• Big deal, there is a whole ecosystem of people who depend on traffic jams for a living

Cars in a traffic jam on University Way in Nairobi
Cars in a traffic jam on University Way in Nairobi
Image: FILE

Nairobi’s traffic jam is the epitome of the saying, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” Many motorists would testify that the customary traffic snarl-up is their biggest headache due to the fuel costs incurred and the time wasted while stuck on the road.

However, there are certain categories of Nairobians who look to these traffic jams with glee. 

Mwingi town hawker Mary Munyoki on Wednesday April 8, 2020
Mwingi town hawker Mary Munyoki on Wednesday April 8, 2020
Image: LINAH MUSANGI

1. Hawkers

For this category of people, traffic jams are the perfect opportunities for them to hawk their wares to motorists without worrying about run-ins with county askaris. From car spare parts to skipping ropes to imported oranges, there is a wide range of assorted products a motorist is likely to see being waved at him/her from the other side of the car. 

Beggars in traffic
Beggars in traffic
Image: SHUTTERSTOCK

2. Beggars

Many motorists usually have coins lying around their cars and what better opportunity to dish them out than during a traffic snarl-up? Rather than sit down on different streets, waiting for passers-by to spare a coin or two, many Nairobi beggars now choose to exploit the peak hours, when the snarl-up is at its worst, to ask motorists for any spare change they may have. They are usually accompanied by an assistant, especially for those with physical disabilities, to weave their way through traffic. Also included in this category are street families and children. 

Onlookers at the scene where a phone snatcher was beaten by a mob in Westlands, Nairobi., on October 30, 2020
Onlookers at the scene where a phone snatcher was beaten by a mob in Westlands, Nairobi., on October 30, 2020
Image: COURTESY/ TIMOTHY ICHANGAI

3. Phone snatchers

Much as it may hurt to admit it, phone snatchers are one of the biggest beneficiaries of the traditional traffic jams in Nairobi. Many Nairobians can attest to being victims to these criminals, who prowl around like a lion eyeing a vulnerable antelope. Woe unto you if your windows are open while you are busy chatting or talking on the phone. Within no time and without warning, your precious gadget will be snatched from you and the culprit disappears in thin air.

A traffic police officer inspects a matatu during a crackdown in Nyeri
A traffic police officer inspects a matatu during a crackdown in Nyeri
Image: FILE

4. Traffic police

The intensity of traffic snarl-ups is directly proportional to the temptation to commit violations in a bid to get to your destination quicker. That cabro footpath may just be the perfect escape from the nauseating gridlock, right? Woe unto you if a traffic officer is in the vicinity, for that is where your trip will end and your tribulations will begin. This whole experience is summed up in the Kiswahili proverb "Hasira za mkizi tijara ya mvuvi." Traffic jams are the perfect waters for traffic cops to fish for as many offenders as possible and maybe walk home with a fatter pocket than he came to work with.

This story first appeared on the digital magazine Star Sasa, accessible on Sundays for Sh10 by dialling *550*3#

Edited by T Jalio