Among the hardest things for an ordinary Kenyan is to impress upon a visitor just how bad Nairobi’s traffic is.
On paper, for instance, Lang’ata is merely 7km from Nairobi’s Central Business District. This factoid has long been a major selling point for the middle-class suburb, nestled between the super-rich mansions of Karen and the vast informal settlement in Kibera.
Anywhere else in the world, this rare cluster of relatively affordable houses overlooking the only national park in a capital city and served by at least four public transport routes would be a major housing market.
But for most of its lifetime, the neighbourhood has been blighted by its notoriously poor water supply and legendary traffic.
Journeys that take five to ten minutes off-peak can take up to an hour during peak hours.
That’s sixty minutes of angrily watching as individuals flout even the most basic traffic rules, matatus drive on the sidewalks, pedestrians jaywalk, and policemen solicit bribes as the worst side of a normally pleasant people surfaces.
In one such incident, a city driver seemingly tired of staying stuck inside his old-school Mercedes-Benz was on Thursday morning filmed exercising outside his car on a congested Nairobi road.
In the clip that has since gone viral, the man can be seen performing some upper body and back stretches as a way of buying time in the long wait for the packed traffic to finally start moving.
It’s frustrating that almost none of Nairobi’s traffic problems are irresolvable, and so many are due to poor planning or implementation.
Responsibility ultimately comes down to policy failures at the county and national levels.
As it stands, senior government at all levels has resorted to self-preservation − using sirens and irate police officers to bully their way through the jams − rather than dealing with the traffic itself.
In 2019, the Nairobi Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (NAMATA) revealed that traffic congestion in Nairobi city costs Kenya approximately USD 1 billion a year.
In the report, Nairobi was ranked as the world’s 4th most congested city hosting more than 3 million people and with an average travel time of 57 minutes.
A different study by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), studies showed that Kenya loses over KES 50 million daily in traffic jams.
An amount that results in KES 18.25 billion loss annually.
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