By David Muchui
The rising number of motorcycles (boda boda) being introduced into the transport sector coupled with newly carpeted roads has spelled doom for many besides the economic gains that have come with them.
The once jobless youths have found a lucrative venture with many throwing all cares to the wind by venturing into the business without training.
According to Meru Central Traffic Base Commander Mr. Jackson Sang, all riders involved in accidents in the region have no rider’s license.
“The boda-boda business was introduced as a noble venture but it has been misused. Influx in the number of untrained riders is the main cause of accidents,” says Sang.
He admits that it has been quite hard for the traffic officers to crack down on errant boda boda owners since most of them avoid the main roads.
Motorbikes can use even the narrow alleys hence making it hard to apprehend un-licensed riders. Most of the accidents go unreported because they fear being arrested on reporting,” the base commander says.
Sang adds that it is quite risky for traffic police to stop a motorbike at the check points since most of them speed off which may lead to accidents.
“We are careful when stopping motor bikes to avoid being the cause of accidents. The boda boda riders pose a challenge because most of them are unstoppable. Those who are on the wrong can end up causing accidents while trying to escape,” he explains.
The Base Commander also says the means of acquiring the motor bikes complicates the process of identifying the owner when involved in an accident.
“Some of the dealers are hiring out their bikes for business. When a rider is involved in an accident, they escape. This delays prosecution of wrong doers,” he remarks.
Most of the accidents are fatal because the riders have defied calls to wear protective gear all the time.
Recently, residents of Meru Central District held prayers along the Meru-Githongo road to seek divine intervention over the rising number of accidents which have claimed lives and left many nursing injuries.
Githongo Location Chief Julius Kirimi said most of the accidents have been caused by drunken motorcycle riders and inexperienced riders who have flooded the route.
“It is sad to see the road that was expected to bring good tidings has come with doom. We have experienced over 20 accidents on this road since it was tarmacked. 99 percent of the accidents have been caused by Boda boda riders,” lamented Kirimi.
The Chief calls for setting up of motor cycle riding training centres in the area noting that most of the riders are trained in school fields for only one day hence they have no knowledge on sound road use.
In Buuri and Tigania West districts, residents are up in arms over the loss of lives caused by boda boda accidents along Ruiri-Isiolo road which is also newly carpeted.
The Secretary for Boda boda operators in Ruiri Mr Geoffrey Nkarichia lays blame to drivers for not been respecting boda boda riders on the road leading to accidents.
“We have lost about seven people in the last four months on this road in accidents involving motorbikes. The Traffic police should come in to ensure all drivers and riders are trained,” he said.
Mituntu ward Civic leader Kimathi Chokera blames the accidents on overloading of boda bodas and calls on the operators and passengers to religiously observe traffic rules.
“I urge the Boda Boda riders to ensure they observe the rules. We are losing young people through road accidents which can be avoided. I have seen some carrying passengers on top of sacks of maize. We are not ready to live in mourning because of carelessness,” Kimathi remarks.
The traffic boss notes that most of the accidents occur between 5pm and 8pm since this is when the rogue Boda Boda operators start business.
Other than failure by riders to get professional training on riding and traffic rules, carrying of more than one pillion passenger is another cause of accidents.
“We are urging passengers to desist from being lured into a motor bike that is already overloaded. Some riders have gone to the extent of adding cushions on the fuel tank to accommodate three passengers,” he laments.
He warns that such overloading is risky since it makes the motorbike unstable which increases chances of accidents.
Sang’, also notes that boda boda operators who carry more than one passenger are more vulnerable to hijackers.
“Most of the cases of motorbike hijacking have been traced to overloading. It is much easier for two criminals posing as passengers to snatch the bike,” he says.
Passengers who have been involved in accidents with motor bikes have had to cater for their medical bills since the bikes have no Public Service Insurance cover.
“The boda bodas which are now carrying even three people have private insurance cover catering for the rider only. In the event of accidents, many are left pay hefty medical bills,” he warns.
To stem the rising number of accidents, Sang says the traffic department has embarked on training motor bike riders on road safety.
“We have been going round holding seminars on road safety for the boda boda operators. We are urging the motorbike owners to prioritize training to avert deaths. They should know the repercussions of accidents can deprive one of life and money,” he says.
He recommends that all boda boda operators should form SACCO’s which he says will help in training and tracking errant riders hence restoring discipline in the trade.