The boda boda transport sector is a mix of good and bad things. On one hand, this sector provides employment to thousands of Kenyans and supports livelihoods. On the other hand, there are reports of injuries and deaths caused by commercial motorcycles.
We tend to blame boda boda riders for their bad riding habits, but many of us still use their services. Motorcycles are everywhere, from the heart of Nairobi to remote areas of Kenya. However, the behaviour of riders is homogeneous, with many riders not trained to operate motorcycles, riding without helmets, carrying more than one passenger, and riding on the wrong side of the road.
Despite the chaos, the boda boda sector has many positive aspects. Motorcycles have made the transportation of people and goods easier in rural areas, opened up economies in areas without roads, and filled transport gaps in areas where vehicles cannot access them. Even in areas with good road infrastructure, boda bodas are still indispensable, as many people use them to evade traffic.
The boda boda sector is slowly changing, and new business models, such as motorcycle ride-hailing platforms, are emerging. Technology is predicted to change the boda boda sector for good, as apps like Bolt and Uber enrol trained riders and ensure that the motorcycles have valid insurance cover, reducing crime. Passengers also retain digital records of their rides and can easily share ride details with family and friends.
As we wait for technology to change the boda boda sector, it is important to establish that boda boda operations are safe and organized for all. Training riders on road safety is one way to organize the sector. Most riders have low road safety knowledge, and many do not know simple road signs, indicating that they are untrained and unlicensed.
For the past five years, I have immersed myself in road safety activities, gaining immense knowledge on how boda boda operators approach this business. Most riders feel belittled by motorists on the road, and this affects their behaviour. Road safety awareness campaigns are necessary to address this issue.
In conclusion, technology is the best bet for organizing the boda boda sector, but we must also invest in training riders on road safety to ensure that the sector is safe and organized for all.