Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Tuk Tuk Invasion

There’s a lot of good that can be said about the Tuk Tuk, the little three wheeled car that has been threatening the livelihoods of taxi drivers. In most areas the concept of Tuk Tuks has been embraced wholeheartedly. In Mombasa for example where the punishing heat and high humidity can make it quite a task to walk a few blocks, the tuk tuk is quite welcome for short rides. Their advantages cannot be underestimated. They have created thousands of jobs and enabled people to go to hard to reach places with their door to door services. With some models covering upto 35 Kilometers for just a liter of petrol, they can afford to charge very low fares.

But like every good thing, Tuk Tuks have their downside. The hitherto quiet and serene atmosphere of most streets and other parts of town has been shattered by the characteristic and oh so relentless tok tok tok tok of tuk tuks as they make their rounds. Hardly a minute passes by without one of these noisily zooming past and for those in ground floor offices right along the road, concentrating has become almost impossible.

That is just a problem people may have to evolve around because it seems the little motorbike/taxi hybrids are here to stay. What can and needs to be addressed ASAP is their road etiquette. Some drivers just hit the road with no inkling whatsoever about traffic rules, weaving and meandering through traffic with complete disregard of lane change rules. As long as one can ride a motorbike, he learns the rest on the job and sometimes it’s obvious the errant drivers are just not aware when they’re on the wrong. They’re nowhere near as mad or rude as matatu drivers, in fact majority of them are usually very apologetic when they mess on the road. But obstruction is obstruction. Dangerous lane change is dangerous lane change regardless of what size of vehicle is doing it.

The police don’t seem to pay as much attention to them as they do to Matatus but maybe it’s time they did.

From The Past: Of Holy Noise and Kenyan Churches.

From The Web: Photos of Spain Tomatina Festival.


Mcheku said...

Words fail me on this one, I have nothing to say because I love (new!)tuk-tuks.

Maybe coz I see them mostly when I am in coasto? The ones I have seen in Nairobi city centre are so 'tired' and 'weary' I dont think they can even make noise, most of the time I see them being pushed by hand!

Mountainous said...

Tuk tuks are ok and welcome what I don't like are the motocycle boda bodas cropping up all over especially when I see passangers riding without helmets and having been in Kisumu recently I know that if they become too many in the city centre they will definately cause a major traffic nightmare.

Shiko-Msa said...

Mcheku the ones you're talking about are the very traditional ones that were pushed by hand? And in Nairobi? I've not been there (Nairobi) in a long time but it seems then the tuk tuk transport idea has not caught on ama? Nairobians mnasemaje?

I don't mind tuk tuk either. Boda boda on the other hand - I once rode on a bicycle in Western Kenya and though I cant say never again, I think next time I'll pass. Not because of class or anything but because it was real scary.

Mountainous motorcycles are fast replacing the bicycle boda boda even here. They're very many and are set to increase even more since duties on them came down. Every cyclist is hoping to upgrade. You raise a very important issue of safety. Do they usually have an extra helmet for the passenger? Do the riders even wear helmets themselves?

Our Kid said...

I dislike tuk tuks. I think they are a bit of a bother especially when they are not factored in the planning for roads. With no special lanes, those 3 wheelers are a traffic nightmare. Same to boda boda. I have witnessed accidents involving those boda bodas and it wasn't pretty. Kenyans should top this hog wash of sacrificing safety at the alter of cost.

Having said that, I think taxi fares are over priced in this our country!!!

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Anonymous said...

even id the bikes have an extra helmets for passangers, who would wear them? that would mean having to share the same helmet for all of them. wacha ikae.

Shiko-Msa said...

Nairobian I've voted for you on Deutsche Well BOBS awards. I hope I followed the right procedure. All the best.

Our Kid the tuk tuks can be quite a nuisance on the roads. Mutula Kilonzo should factor them in his grand plans for Nairobi and then spread that concept to other towns. In the meantime maybe we need to walk more. save money, stay safe and stay healthy?

Anon I can see what you mean. Yikes!