How to make boda boda safer and sustainable

Impounded motorbikes at Central police station in Nairobi on March 8

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania needs to incorporate motorcycles (boda-boda) into the country’s transport systems in ways that are safe, sustainable, and equitable thus ripening from its potentials, and minimising its negative impacts, a recent study suggests.

Dubbed: The Wheel of Change: Safe and Sustainable Motorcycles in Sub-Saharan Africa, the study observes that since motorcycles continue to play significant role in the transportation sector, formalisation is vital.

The ‘Wheel of Change’ survey was conducted in Africa’s nine cities, namely Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Kampala (Uganda), Kigali (Rwanda), Maputo (Mozambique), Douala (Cameroon), Accra (Ghana), Conakry, (Guinea), Lagos, (Nigeria), and Lomé (Togo).

“Motorcycles need to be incorporated into the wider improved transport and mobility policy, with an institutional framework that prioritises safety, sustainability, and equity. Policy must favour development of mass transit and promotion of active mobility over the private cars,” reads part of the study.

According to the report, the move should be aligned with the safe system approach to road safety, and that the policy should support the transition to electric motorcycles to reduce air pollution and climate emissions, while also addressing safety concerns.

The study outlines that specific opportunities to improve the commercial motorcycle sector exist in regulation, rider training, protective equipment, enforcement, infrastructure, and technology.

Besides, the researchers believe that addressing such issues, then policy-makers must recognise the breadth of the impact that their decisions have and develop a full understanding of the local issues and context.

For instance, the authors think that policy matters must be effectively translated and developed into legislation, regulations, strategies, enforcement activities, manuals, programmes, and campaigns.

“To reduce the number of motorcycle-related deaths and injuries, the safe system approach must be adopted,” reads another part of the report.

In addition, the study urges on the importance of having trained riders, motorcycles and protective equipment that meet minimum safety standards, roads designed for motorcycles and other vulnerable road users, and a post-crash care system that maximises the chance of survival.

Riding boda-boda according to the journal, is a precarious occupation, and there are also risks for passengers and pedestrians.

The paper cites that more than half of all child pedestrians injured on the roads of Dar es Salaam, are hit by motorcycles, whilst deaths of motorcycle riders account for more than half of all road deaths.

Furthermore, available data have it that Tanzania loses over 16, 000 people annually, and motorcycle-related accidents account for the majority of road traffic injuries.

In addition, Dr Aifelo Sichwale, the former chief medical officer, was once quoted as saying that 10 out of every 100 patients treated in hospitals emergency departments were victims of accidents, with motorcycle accounting for up to 77 percent of the total cases.

Initially, the government required motorcycle associations to set regulations in line with its requirements and to ensure its members adhere to them, but improving compliance through the said associations remains a huge challenge.