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Life Reflections

Reining in Kigali’s unruly drivers and riders

By September 12, 2011June 6th, 2023No Comments

Pray, where was I when Kigali roads were lighting up? You’d think this village-city never sleeps, the way it keeps springing surprises. I was serenely pussyfooting along from Gisimenti to Kiyovu when I noticed one of the reflectors on the road flicker on. I rubbed my eyes and stared. So, when did those reflectors become lights?

I’m not talking about overhead street lights. These new ones also caused a stir when they started to create patterns of amber pathways amid white glows in the Kigali night-sky, but I’m almost used to that now. I know that they have not yet totally won their brave struggle against the old, rusted blinkers that only succeed in giving us patches of dark and dim-light, but they are giving a good account of themselves. In time, they’ll conquer Kigali.

I’m talking about the reflectors on the street- and road-sides. Any time you drive along any main street in the evening, look down at the roadsides carefully and you’ll notice that some of those ‘reflectors’ are actually lights. They’re easily noticeable especially at the corners of taxi-stops, where they flicker on-off constantly.

Hopefully, street lights and reflector-lights together will rid us of the menace of the hazy-eyed evening motorist who over-indulges his favourite tipple and mistakes the palm-tree for the highway! That, even when the trees remain stubbornly emaciated, despite much pampering.

And if that hazy-eyed carouser needs more prompting, there are the new traffic lights to give him the count-down on the seconds to wait for other vehicles to pass.

However, I’ve noticed that our city fathers/mothers will need to fiddle with those lights some more. For the moment, the lights don’t seem to be helping even the clear-headed daylight motorist. At the points where they’ve been installed, they seem to clog up traffic-flow rather than ease it.

I was thinking; what does it cost to build flyovers on all road junctions? I’ve heard whispers of them being in the offing but I suspect those are for pedestrians. We need those for motorists, too. Seemingly, traffic lights only succeed in worsening traffic snarl-ups, as the new Gisimenti roundabout has shown. Which is why many Western cities have done away with them, anyway.

And then there are the Kigali motorists to compound the problem. For instance, is there any driver in Kigali who keeps to their lane?

Even I had never noticed, though, until a foreign colleague here pointed it out. But since mending my ways, I’ve appreciated the joke in the Ekanya cartoon of Uganda. In reference to Ugandan roads, Ekanya said: “These days only drunks drive straight on our roads!” This meant that no sane person could drive straight, since they had to dodge potholes.

Similarly, in Rwanda only the drunk would seem to keep to their lane, going by the way there seems to be unanimity in all the sober drivers to straddle the white line that separates lanes. The few who stick to the rules should call for the intervention of our strict police.

There is nothing more irritating than confronting the tail of such a driver. You are in your lane and in front of you is someone who can’t decide whether they want to be in the right lane, or in the left. You honk and they move to the right but before you overtake, they are back in the middle of the road, tyres astride the line.

You move to the extreme right and try to squeeze past them but they are moving so close to the right shoulder that you stop dead in your tracks. Gosh! Would that police moved around with a hippo whip for such accursed drivers!

You’ll particularly feel the revulsion when you are at the Giporoso junction or between Gisimenti and Gishushu. Seemingly, here it has proved impossible for the city council to smoothen out traffic flow.

Still, kudos to police for reining in the wayward mumotari, motorcycle-taxi rider. For the sake of passenger hygiene, police has directed that bamotari (many) provide head covers for use under the helmet. By using the same helmet, passengers faced the danger of skin-disease infection.

It was a good move, only that it has raised the problem of who covers the cost: while bamotari think passengers should foot the bill, passengers think it should be borne by bamotari. That is a riddle but where there is a will, a way will always be found. A passenger can use one head-cover many times over, no?

If you are going to take a moto (motorcycle-taxi) ten times in a day, you don’t need to use ten different covers.  I’ve not exactly seen those so-called smart head-covers, but I think they are hardy enough to last through many rides. Also, I’ve seen ladies who cover their heads with their own headdresses before putting a helmet. Would they need a head-cover on top of that?

The task now remaining for our police is to render those moto rides safe. Short of constructing pathways for them, however, I don’t exactly see what can totally redeem them.

Without total road safety, the famed order and cleanliness of Kigali will mean zilch.

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