Traffic bottlenecks and hypocrisy on the roads – my personal view

24th April 2012 was a very bad day for most Nairobian’s who had gone to work.
Who would go and earn the country revenue in taxes.

Whose tax shillings SHOULD be used to make their lives better.

Instead, after a hard harrowing day at work, these Nairobian’s stood in the cold rain, soaked to the core waiting for public transport. Waiting for a colleague. Waiting for any means to get home.

People sat in cars, buses, matatus waiting to get to their intended destinations but went nowhere. The entire city was a gridlock. Greed took over and fares were hiked. Lust took over and side-mirrors, bags and mobiles were stolen.

Mother’s, who wanted to be home to see that their children had eaten and were warm in the rain.

Father’s who wanted to be home to see if their sons and daughters had made them proud with a new achievement.

All in all, the entire city was brought to a standstill by very few, easily controllable factors.
No, I am no expert in traffic movement nor am I saying I can do a better job than the people currently doing it. I am voicing my opinion as a tax-payer who sat in traffic for 6 hours to travel a distance of 21.6kms!

With all the (commendable) road expansion and construction going on, given that there are bound to be a few delays here and there. Given that this will result in some roads being less passable than others.

Question, why were alternative routes to ease the flow marked and created?

Let’s take the example of the Museum Hill interchange. The current excavation for the new lanes has resulted in there being only one lane on either side. Therefore 3 lanes of traffic from Uhuru Highway all funnel into 1 lane at the underpass before reverting back to a 3 lane carriageway on Chiromo. The same is on the opposite side coming from Chiromo and on towards Uhuru Highway.

It is bad enough that on regular days, this bottleneck creates a tailback as far back as Haille Selassie with the addition of rain, it is a total nightmare.

On the morning of 24th April 2012, three trucks got stuck in the quagmire resulting in traffic jams all the way up Waiyaki Way as far back as Uthiru turn off.
Question, why can’t the Traffic Police Department station a few tow trucks around there for assistance in such situations?

To add to the misery of all this traffic matatu’s were blatantly overlapping and causing gridlocks, yet no action was taken on them. Case in example 1: Matatu’s using the dividing island between Lusaka Rd roundabout and Bunyala Rd roundabout as their own personal road.

Case in example 2, matatu’s were using the footpath between Bunyala roundabout, along the War Cemetery and returning to Uhuru Highway near the bus stage opposite Le Vans.

However, we need a serious upheaval in our way of driving before we can blame the Police or the Traffic Department.

The Police have controlled traffic for so long that if you stop them controlling traffic, the entire city would come to a standstill even longer than last night. Traffic lights work in unison based on a computer program that use the concept of phases. This allows for grouped movement of traffic and the phases can be adjusted with volume of traffic.

I am confident that if the traffic lights were left to direct traffic flow and the Police were used to enforce the lights – arresting and spot-fining red light jumpers, drivers entering crossroads that aren’t clear as well as pedestrians running across the road – then we would have a better state of affairs on the road. Yes, I know this opens a whole loophole about bribes but it’s a start to get everyone following the traffic lights again.

The biggest contributor, whether they government accepts it or not, is the public service vehicle industry. Matatu’s and buses heed no traffic rules or laws, make their own lanes, overlap, cause gridlocks yet are hardly ever reprimanded. Muranga Rd in Ngara is gridlocked everyday due to overlapping matatu’s. Museum Hill overpass, same story. Bunyala Road roundabout is gridlocked morning and evening due to drivers coming from Nyayo Stadium Slip Road to turn on to Bunyala Road. This blocks all drivers coming down Upper Hill road and drivers from Lusaka Rd roundabout.

I am no expert in the field of revenue generation but I am sure that an efficient public transport system would increase income for the government. Presuming there are approximately 200,000 commuters in Nairobi daily, each spending on average 150/- on their commute, that is 30million shillings daily. Could this not fund to run and maintain a rail system?
Presuming the same 200,000 people above waste approximately 2 man hours a day in traffic with the average daily-wage at Kshs. 300, that is over 13 million shillings down the drain.
I give these figures as a loose calculation to explain my argument. Over 22 days, that’s nearly a whopping 300 million shillings gone!

If the government economists are wondering where the countries money is going, there it is. This does not even take into account the amount lost due to engines burning fuel in standstill traffic.

Last question, if ISP’s can put cameras all over Nairobi to let us have a view of traffic, why can’t the Transport Ministry introduce traffic cameras that the Traffic Police can use to monitor and direct traffic flow. A centralised control unit makes more sense to me than using mobile phones and radio calls to ask if the next roundabout is clear enough to open a lane.

This are my opinions based on my daily drive from Athi River to Parklands daily. I would love to know yours.

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8 thoughts on “Traffic bottlenecks and hypocrisy on the roads – my personal view

  • Samir, I think there is a shhpelling mistake – should be GREED-LOCK…not Grid-Lock…methinks . . . ! Great writing !

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  • In addition, in my own opinion, if only the VIPs (Members of Parliament) would use an alternate means of transport, this situation would be contained. This was one of the reasons adding to the traffic misery seen last night. The side from Museum hill to Mombasa road was completely clear to allow for a clear path for our VIPs. Mathematically it makes more sense for them to use helicopters for their short journeys (as does the President of Uganda). Holding hundreds of thousands of people in traffic for hours for one person to pass does not make economical nor common sense. We might just have to brace ourselves for such traffic situations, as the city council keeps on approving highrise buidlings in residential areas which were planned to hold a certain amount of people, and the city planners have no strategy in sight to ease the traffic congestion on Uhuru Highway.

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    • What NEEDS to happen is that the privileges that these “VIPS” have, should be done away with totally – no VIP cars, no police escorts, no 4 wheel cars – but all people entitled to cars should be given a FITZ or similar car – and no driver – they would have to drive themselves….Perhaps they will then see and experience the mayhem on the roads, and perhaps ( live in hope !! ) do what needs to be done…

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  • You write as if you don’t understand that the police at best are complicit in allowing the Matatus to drive as they do, and at worst (which is far more likely) are in many cases owners and or stakeholders in the Matatu industry themselves.

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  • Sam
    I thought with new bypasses etc, the traffice situ would ease. However I have always felt that the police controlling traffic make the situation even worse. If they allowed it to flow, people would reach their destinations and ease the congestion.
    What happened to scrapping the roundabouts.
    Sandip

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  • I find the manner in which the contractor has gone about alternate route planning and diversion provision absolutely infuriating.

    A large proportion of these traffic jams are caused because these guys just keep creating stupid, easy to avoid bottlenecks. Either a large bump (as at St Xaviers), a turning that is too narrow (outside Museum Hill Centre, on ramp from town to join Museum Hill interchange), etc etc.

    Add idiotic drivers to that cocktail (and I remain convinced that Kenya is the World Champion at producing marathon runners and idiot drivers), and what you have is a perfect recipe for gridlock.

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  • I sympathize with all hardworking Kenyans who suffered in the rain going home. Our citizens work tirelessly and we all know our shortcomings are due to lack of knowledge. The day Kenyans will realize how much power they have, government officials will treat citizens with dignity they deserve. There is not a single shred of accountability in transportation industry. No one demands results and the culture of lawlessness prevails.
    People have lost lives in the past one month and nothing is being done. Transport minister should be made to resign; he should be accountable. The idea that it was Gods plans is mere none sense. Accidents are very avoidable. As a nation, we have to start somewhere if we want country that produces results and accountability is the key. Kenyans need to demonstrate outside ministry of transport and force some changes before we loose more love ones.

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