cycling on Kenyan roads


I cycle for fun. Some of you know this already.

I also cycle to work. Most of you don’t know this. I do this when the weather is good or when I don’t feel like driving and sitting pretty in slow moving traffic looking at the beautiful women and not so handsome men stroll by. That is where the good news end.

For the benefit of those who can’t place Kenya on a world map, it is somewhere in East Africa, a third world country where 46% of the 43 million citizens live below the poverty line and income level is in the lower middle income you would think the engineers who design the roads would plan for pedestrians and cyclists. What we have are roads planned for vehicular transport and a host of drivers who lack courtesy.

It is hectic trying to cycle in this mess.

People’s attitudes towards cyclists must change. Instead of seeing us as things to be avoided on the road, drivers must begin to see us as road users with as much right on the road as they.

Did I say I hate helmets. They tell you to not ride without one. The thing they should tell you is to as much as possible avoid being knocked down. I wear a helmet though. One only hopes motorists will learn to share the road with cyclists and the road engineers will think of pedestrian and cycle lanes.

No blog about cycling is complete without cyclists.

All photos by my good friend Moses

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

44 thoughts on “cycling on Kenyan roads

  1. Tish Farrell says:

    I think you are a hero, cycling to work, Noel. One of the things about Kenyan vehicle traffic is you never know where it’s going to be – undertaking, driving on sidewalks etc. Your helmet needs more sets of eyes, methinks. These are really great photos from your friend Moses, especially the outta the underworld shot. I also had the sudden sense of the air in Nairobi – it’s not like anywhere else.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Apart from traffic, cycling to work is fun. And I like the ride back home. I can make it as long as I can manage to.
      He takes nice shots. He cycles too.
      I need to carry a cane. Any badly behaved motorist is whipped. A few times epithets have checked them 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. We have a recent (say ten years or so) two metre law in Spain where motorists should leave that much space. Most are pretty good. One driver cut Adrian up really badly at a roundabout though and he was forced off the road. People came and asked if he was OK. Most cyclists carry mobiles to take photos and/or call the police.the roads are wide enough so there is really no excuse.
    Problem with road planners is that they are invariably drivers. Pedestrians know exactly where zebra crossings are needed because they walk the streets regularly. Takes ages for planners to work it out.
    That’s a horrific level of poverty Mak 😦

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    • makagutu says:

      The poverty levels here are horrific and made worse by corruption.
      And I think because there is no public participation, no one remembers to plan for all road users.
      2m is safe for cyclists

      Liked by 1 person

      • We went to a party political meeting and one candidate for the government said cycling wasn’t safe in Gib. He was a taxi driver.
        If cycling isn’t safe, not that he would know from a cycling perspective, why not do something about it, instead of saying it shouldn’t be allowed? What he meant was, they are a nuisance and inconvenience me when I am making money. And believe me taxi drivers here earn A LOT of money.

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  3. john zande says:

    Slowly, ever so slowly, bike paths are being laid here in Brazil (SP, especially). That said, in Brisbane there is an absolutely brilliant network which gets you around the city, over the river, to the hills with very little contact with traffic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Avoid cyclists? Don’t we get special bonus points on our license for knocking them over, like on a video-game? 😀

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  5. where I live, at least as many cyclists are nuisances as there are good riders. I have been knocked over and nearly hit when walking ( I walk to work, now only about a 1/4 mile each way and for about 6 years 3 miles each way). When driving, many cyclists have simply not obeyed the traffic laws, weaving between other vehicles, ignoring traffic signals, going up onto sidewalks when they feel like it, etc. Many of the cyclists seem to want to be considered a vehicle when convenient and then a pedestrian when convenient and causing chaos because no one can read their minds and know what they will do in a given situation.

    My city did just put in a bike lane in one of our major incoming roads, which is great and we have a lovely belt of connecting trails around the city in nice tree lined areas. Some of police also do bike patrols.

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    • makagutu says:

      Weaving between vehicles is sometimes the only option a cyclist has, especially on our roads.
      We encourage cyclists, at least those in our group, to observe traffic rules. It is for their benefit that they must do this.
      Sorry about the accidents.

      Like

      • I can with you there, when you say that a cyclist sometimes has no option of weaving between vehicles. But this is not always the case, and the cyclists I see do it for no reason other than they want to get ahead of other vehicles, not responsibly act like one. For example, here in my city, the speed limit is 25 but is usually less just because of traffic. A bicycle has no problem in keeping up with traffic and could take their spot in with other vehicles, but they choose not to, cutting around other vehicles just to get ahead of them, something that other vehicles can’t do.

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    • fojap says:

      I was knocked down and run over by a cyclist when I was a kid. Later, in my early teens, I was riding and an older boy grabbed me, pulled me off the bicycle and beat me. I didn’t really know him. It was very strange.

      As they’ve put in bicycle lanes and cycling become more common, I find the cyclists have become much better about obeying traffic laws. When I first moved to New York it was the heyday of the bicycle messengers. Those guys were terrible, going at top speed and running lights. They’d shout, “Get out of the way! Get out of the way!” as they nearly treated a bunch of pedestrians as bowling pins. I’ve been a pedestrian most of my life, too. It’s my preferred way. (I like hiking, too.)

      I will say, those messengers were hot.

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      • makagutu says:

        My bike accidents have hardly involved anyone else. I have fallen down at corners, cycled into a herd of cattle. No animals were hurt.
        Luckily none has been life threatening.
        I have been on motorised transport for a long time. Decided to change to shed weight and beat traffic. I like hiking too. Haven’t been out this year for a hike though.
        I can imagine how those messengers looked with so much time on the saddle

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        • fojap says:

          I was young then and I worked as a receptionist, so I flirted a lot. 😀 ( I need an lewd smiley.)

          Like

        • Arkenaten says:

          You hit a herd of cattle! Lol… only in Africa. Did you have your eyes closed?
          Funny, when I was a kid we cycled everywhere and there were no laws regarding helmets. I came off a few times and bumped and bruised myself in the process but never would have thought of wearing a helmet.
          How times change.

          I wouldn’t contemplate cycling around Jo’burg. You know what the taxis are like down here I’m sure, right?

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          • makagutu says:

            I was young then. And you are damn right, only in Africa.
            Most relatives were within cycling distance. I cycled to so many places and never wore a helmet. I hate those things.
            I think your city is like Nairobi, except worse

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            • Arkenaten says:

              I hardly ever go into the city proper any more, though I worked right in the centre of town – Carlton Centre and just around the corner – for years.
              These days, even though developers are trying to upgrade it, it is in my view still filthy and unpleasant.

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              • makagutu says:

                The biggest trouble with Nbi is parking space. One can drive for an hour just looking for a spot. If I must be in town, I would use the unregulated public transport.
                Developers are not the best suited to upgrade neighbourhoods. It should be planned by the local authority

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                • Arkenaten says:

                  The problems began when street traders were allowed ( authorities turned a blind eye I suspect) to occupy pavements, which soon interfered with regular shops, who then took it upon themselves to regularly move some of their wares outside as well!
                  Efforts were made in 2010 prior to the World Cup to sort this out and in part, local authorities succeeded, but a precedent had been set and it left a legacy that continues and the rubbish build up in parts of Jo’burg is awful.

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                  • makagutu says:

                    Again that is a planning problem. By failing to allow for small shops in areas where pedestrians use. After some time this niche is filled and for reasons such as voters and what nots, local councils leave them to operate. It is hard to cure after that

                    Liked by 1 person

  6. Violet says:

    In my city of 125,000, we have 85 miles (137 km) of paved bike trails…that’s a shitload of trails. I love that these paths keep bikers out of heavy traffic, which I think is safer for everyone. The problem: being a walker, the bike trails are hazardous for me. I’ve been run over by bikers more times than I can count while being on foot, which is pretty serious when you’re already disabled like I am. I will no longer walk any of the bike trails for fear of being seriously injured.

    So walk on my non-paved hiking trails, and have been nearly trampled by recreational riders on horseback multiple times. In the end, I just don’t know how it’s possible to please everyone, as we all have different needs and wants. I just want to walk in peace, you want to bike in peace, and I’m sure the horseback riders would like to ride in peace. It seems we cannot peacefully share!

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    • makagutu says:

      So sorry V.
      Maybe all of us could learn to share the resources we have.
      All the bike lanes that have been done here, I don’t think they would be 50km are alongside the motorway

      Like

      • Violet says:

        I do wish more cities would see the value of putting in paved bike trails that avoid high traffic areas (but still get you where you want to go). Our bike trails are a huge, heavily advertised feature of our city, and people who can ride *love* them. Not to mention it gets people out exercising and in the fresh air.

        Forgot to say I love your photos! I hope you can continue to enjoy cycling and don’t get hurt by a motorist…I’m so glad to hear you wear a helmet. We should all get to enjoy the activities we love, but sometimes it IS hard to share (I tend to think everything should cater to the pedestrian, which is ME). 😀

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        • makagutu says:

          I agree the pedestrian should have preference, then cyclists and lastly motorists. Most planners think the opposite way and that is why we have problems.
          Cities should have pedestrian and cycling lanes separated from vehicles. This I think would make the majority happy

          Liked by 1 person

  7. basenjibrian says:

    I am a careful cyclist but there are some legalities that are just silly. I’m sorry to sound like a scofflaw, but I am not going to stop at every stop sign my town has scattered along the main route out of town. Especially as stopping means legally taking the feet out of the pedals and putting them on the ground. There are several stop signs on this road that service one cul de sac or minor neighborhood street. One of the cul-de-sacs has five houses on it. Darn right I cruise through this silly stop sign. And there are so many examples like this.

    As for injuries-there are jerk cyclists. Horrific stories and entitled, horrible cyclists. (I will in my own defense note that I always yield legal rights of way, never blow through stop signs, and hate obvious stupid behavior like salmoning)

    What bothers me is that people focus on the crimes of cyclists, not the onlgoing holocaust of the autosexual lifestyle (I drive too, so mea culpa). . There is something offensive to the average driver that cyclists are out there. Especially when they are stuck in the three ton metal coffins and we are actually moving more quickly than they are ! I can’t understand the offense.

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    • makagutu says:

      Some friend of mine said some motorists are mad at cyclists because they see their well trimmed bodies while they are there just growing fat.
      One can’t stop at all stop signs. Maybe slow down slightly just to ensure it is safe to proceed.

      Like

  8. fojap says:

    Your friend takes great pictures.

    You know, Baltimore always had a lot of cyclists. It’s a smallish city and not especially hilly. It also has a high level of poverty. Many people can’t afford cars. The only negative is that as an older city, the streets are narrow and they can’t really put in separate bike lanes in most places. Then, on the other hand, when you get to the denser part of the city, there are a lot of side streets without much traffic.

    Quite a few people where my sister works commute by bicycle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • basenjibrian says:

      One advantage of many older cities is the classic North American street grid. I found Chicago eminently cyclable, for example, because there were so many narrow, quiet side streets which carried little fast through traffic.

      Versus the suburban pattern of cul de sacs and disconnected loops “connected” (poorly to boot) by massive four and six lane automotive sewers, usually lined with strip commercial centers featuring multiple driveways!

      I would much rather bicycle in an older city that a suburban sprawlscape. The City residents also often lack the sense of entitlement the suburban autosexuals sport!

      Like

  9. themodernidiot says:

    I love the way you’ve arranged the pics in the post, very cool looking on the page. And nice shots!

    As always, I love your tales of Kenyan life. They can be such a contrast to mine yet still with shared experiences. It reminds me the world is unified in our humanity.

    Now, as for that helmet, good sir – I’ve spent 7 months recovering from a brain injury, and may have trouble for the rest of my life. I never even hit my head on anything. Wear it; that beautiful mind of yours is too precious to damage.

    Like

  10. Scottie says:

    WOW many huge years ago when I was a kid we rode our bikes all over the town. As a teen myself and my friends often rode our bike the 10 miles to the next biggest town ( city) to school and home again. These roads were in many places narrow and without the wonderful bike paths I saw in Berlin. However we felt safe because it was the law that if a biker was hit, the driver of the car was at fault and responsible no matter what. So the drivers on the roads we used did not want to hit us ( some did try to intimidate us ) because if they were to be in any way shown to do it, ( it was as I said a small town and everyone knew everyone and their cars ) the driver of the car was in big trouble as was their family. Be well. Hugs

    Like

  11. Real real me says:

    These photos are very artistic…
    I agree with you about the changes that should be made…

    Like

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