The Boda Boda; A Menace or Blessing?
Recently, I had the opportunity to ride on a Boda Boda and based on the experience I had while clutching on the rider’s back, I evaluated the pros and cons that these motorcycles pose, specifically in major cities all around Kenya.
According to conventional understanding, the Boda Boda is a bicycle taxi in the East African Region originating from the border regions of Kenya and Uganda. The phrase Boda Boda was coined by commuters that frequently used them to cross the ‘no -man’s land’ at the border of the two neighboring countries. Nowadays, the term Boda Boda has evolved with times and technology from the black mamba bicycle of the 80′s and 90′s to the single cylinder imported motorcycles in Kenya which are now ubiquitous as taxis at every rural junction, minor town market or petrol station and throughout Kenya’s major cities.
These motorcycles have become notorious for poor motoring etiquette and wanton disregard of traffic laws. Here in Kenya, the number of these motorcycles multiplied in the 2008/ 2009 fiscal calendar when the Government zero rated the VAT on motorcycles below 2500 cc. This was the beginning of the so called Boda Boda Madness. This was also the time when several major hospitals throughout the country opened what are now called “Bajaj Wards”, referring to a popular Indian brand of motorcycle.
A while back, I visited a police station in Western Kenya and witnessed a motorcycle graveyard, specifically the Boda Boda kind. I thought to myself miserably, how many people must have lost their lives or got maimed by what was there. Then it hit me that most of these riders were out to make a quick buck and had no formal training and skill in riding these bikes; almost a no brainer. They were just Evel Knieval wannabees behind transparent visors.
A lot has changed since then, with the commuter having a louder voice in demanding better service while on the other hand, the government making mandatory of training the riders of the Boda Boda motorcycles. However, in a few notable instances, these riders have been known to carry more than one passenger, not provide safety helmets for them and sometimes colluding with criminals to rob the commuters.
On the positive side, Boda Boda bikes are fast, traffic proof, affordable and plentiful. They are transforming both rural and urban economies by allowing easy access to markets and better productivity in many sectors of the economy.
Just like we always have a taxi cab guy’s number, most Kenyans now store a few Boda Boda riders’ numbers in their trusty Nokias.
“My” Boda Boda guy is called Jalas. He has business cards and not inappropriately sports a ‘Sons of Anarchy’ T-shirt.
He is one of the main reasons I don’t get stuck behind the massive blockade of Toyotas in Nairobi.
Would you ride a Boda Boda? Tell us about “your” boda boda guy or girl.