City Hall comes crushing on motorists

April 2, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 2 – Scenes of motorists overlapping or driving on pavements and footpaths are a common sight especially during the morning and evening rush-hour traffic in Nairobi.

Ignoring traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, foot bridges and other traffic rules seems to be the norm.

"Somebody joked that in Nairobi when the lights are green it shows go, when it is amber, it means danger (but) go! And when it is red, there is a disaster what are you waiting for, go!" says Chrispine Otieno, Director of City Inspectorate at the City Council of Nairobi.

This is why the Council issued a two-month notice in early March for motorists and pedestrians to start observing traffic rules or face the consequences.

"And it does not matter who you are, it doesn\’t matter!" asserts Town Clerk Phillip Kisia.

"So don\’t call my office and tell me mimi ni bwana mkubwa (I am a big wig). The by-laws apply across the board," he warns.

And true to this, photos of government cars clamped by the City Council – a sight never seen before – are now becoming a common feature in our media.

But despite the presence of traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and foot bridges Kenyans seem too inpatient to follow the rules.

"You know we pedestrians are ignorant and we tend to cross the road wherever we think and wherever we feel like," says one pedestrian. "The City Council should first educate people.  They should not just look for mistakes to arrest as that will be very unfair."

Government statistics indicate that 85 percent of accidents on Kenyan roads are as a result of human error and flouting of traffic rules.

But are pedestrians and motorists ready to follow the laws?

"The traffic police themselves do not follow these lights so I don\’t see it working, this is Nairobi. We should maintain the status quo, just cross when you can and then when you can\’t you just wait," says another pedestrian.

However, questions have been raised about how effective this will be when there are limited pedestrian crossings and traffic lights within the city.

There is also the issue of pedestrian crossings located at the wrong places like immediately after roundabouts.

"Formerly there was disconnect between the enforcement and engineering departments but we are now working together. Where we have realised we are giving conflicting signals, corrective actions are being taken," says Mr Otieno, the Director of Inspectorate.

There is often confusion when traffic is supposed to move at roundabouts but at the same time there are people using a pedestrian crossing. There are also instances where a footbridge is present but at the same time there is a pedestrian crossing beneath it.

"Specifically we had an example of Waiyaki Way around the Westlands roundabout where we had to take corrective action, the other one is the bridge at Muthurwa Market, where we had an opening on the wall and yet people are expected to use the foot bridge," notes Mr Otieno.

Other issues that motorists have raised include lack of synchronised traffic lights.

"Formerly, we used to have a synchronised system of traffic lights that used to manage all the traffic lights. However, what we now have stand-alone traffic lights," he says.

"For example the junction of Mama Ngina Street and Moi Avenue operates independent of the junction of City Hall Way and Moi Avenue. It means that if one of them malfunctions, it may affect the others," he adds.

The council has ruled out the possibility of having one system of controlling traffic- either the traffic police or traffic lights. They say both are needed because the structures are not very well developed.

Motorists and pedestrians will also be monitored at night through the use of CCTV cameras.

A fine of Sh2, 000 or six months jail term is in place for the traffic offenders. 

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