They have no doubt become convenient. From helping commuters to beat lengthy traffic jams in urban areas to manoeuvring difficult terrain and poor road networks in rural areas, motorcycles have become a gem in Kenya.
Motorcycle sales have grown sharply due to the increased demand and the entry of cheaper models from China. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) data shows that between January and July 2018 alone some 105,323 new motorcycle units were registered.
But even with the convenience, the risks related to motorcycles have become a big concern as cases of accident injuries and fatalities on the roads rise.
Data by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) showed that motorcycles retained an infamous record as the highest rising cause of death on Kenyan roads despite ongoing campaigns to end this trend.
Comparative statistics showed that in the year to November 2018, some 511 motorcyclists were killed on various roads — a 17 per cent jump compared to a similar window of the previous year. The number of pillion passengers killed in a similar period increased by 8.3 per cent to 220.
The relentless high number of motorcycle deaths deals a blow to safety campaigns and reforms aimed at making this mode of transport safer.
The NTSA and regional authorities have been enforcing the Motorcycle Regulations 2015, which are expected to help tame rogue cyclists.
Under the new regulations, it is a traffic offence to carry more than one passenger on a motorcycle. Moreover, riders are required to have valid documentation, ensure that they and their passengers wear reflector jackets and helmets, and make sure that their headlights are on at all times.
The law also goes beyond riders and extends to owners of motorcycles who are required to, among other things, ensure that the riders working for them have documents such as licences, the motorcycles are roadworthy and are insured, and they have two helmets and two reflector jackets.
Further, motorcycle sellers are now required to issue two helmets and two reflector jackets for every motorcycle that they sell. Vendors who are non-compliant will have their dealership licences revoked by the NTSA.
“Consequently, we are reminding you that contravention of the above provisions will lead to cancellation of dealer’s licence with immediate effect,” NTSA Director General Francis Meja warned in a statement on December 20.
The government in December 2018 issued a three-month extension to May 2019 for boda-boda operators to comply with safety requirements including the acquisition of driving licences, insurance and protective gear. More than 700,000 riders across the country are expected to comply.
The extension followed a request by motorbike operators who argued that it would be difficult to acquire the licences and insurance by the initial January 2019 deadline. Industry data shows that acquisition of a driving licence requires at least Sh9,000 and up to Sh12,000 while insurance cover costs Sh9,000, making it a challenge for most riders who get loans to buy their motorcycles.
The government in November 2018 formed at a task force on boda-boda operations to formulate new policies to oversee the day-to-day governance of the motorcycle transport.
It was also tasked with compiling comprehensive data regarding the safety, reliability, cost and other matters of interest to public service motorbike users.
Apart from the motorcycle accident-related deaths, statistics by the NTSA showed that jaywalking remained a problem. In the 11 months to November 21, 2018, a total of 1,042 pedestrian deaths had been recorded, compared to 951 in a similar period of 2017.
Nairobi has been the most affected by pedestrian deaths prompting the NTSA to erect safety panels on key thoroughfares including Jogoo Road, Landhies Road, Waiyaki Way, Mombasa Road and Airport North Road. The panels are meant to discourage pedestrians from crossing roads from undesignated areas and help bring down fatalities.
Fatalities among motor vehicle passengers also rose slightly over the period to 660, compared to 598 in 2017. Deaths among drivers fell slightly to 268 from 275 the previous year.