Crossing the Roads in Nairobi

In my primary school, we were taught how to cross the road. Look left, look right then look left again. If the road is clear, cross. Walk, do not run. In my earlier years I went to a school upcountry so this method of waiting till the road was clear to catwalk across worked. I hope they don’t teach the same thing to pupils in the city. They’d wait till midnight for the roads to be clear. Not forgetting that LRL (or is RLR) way of crossing the road assumes a bidirectional, 2-lane road with little traffic moving at reasonable speeds.

A beautiful country road. Image from www.perkowitz.com

A beautiful country road. Image from http://www.perkowitz.com

Several years later, I have crossed some of the most dangerous roads in Nairobi-and survived. I didn’t want to cross them but I have had to. In fact I go out of my way to avoid crossing them, only doing so when it’s absolutely necessary. I’ve crossed Mombasa Road at various points, Thika Road (before it become a super highway), Thika-mess (during its construction) and Thika Super Highway. I’ve crossed Waiyaki way, University Way, Haile Selassie Avenue, Langata Road, Mbagathi Way.. name a high-speed highway and I have probably dashed across it. Here’s how to do it:

  • If you have to cross a high speed highway, do it when there is lots of traffic, like at a roundabout. (There is guaranteed traffic at any roundabout in Nairobi). You can even stroll across because the cop will have halted the traffic with a raise of his hand.
  • If there is a footbridge, use it. Thank God the new Thika super highway has footbridges (they are not called flyovers people). It also makes for an interesting view while you cross it. Haile Selassie Avenue also has one- I use it whenever I can.
    Thika highway footbridge. Image from capirro :D

    Thika highway footbridge. Image from capirro 😀

    Mombasa Road, for all its high speed glory, does not have a single footbridge! Except the one at Nyayo roundabout which doesn’t count because there is always traffic so you can just cross the road.

    There are so many people who have lost their lives crossing this road at several points such as Bellevue, General Motors etc. The best way to cross this road is to first pray. Then wait for the road to be at its clear-most, this can last several minutes, up to half an hour even. Watch the 3 lanes (can be as many as 5 depending on the crossing point) and do your mathematics (lane by lane). Be sure to factor in acceleration, remember most cars will be having increasing speeds as they rush head-on towards you (emergency brakes won’t save either of you so usually the driver decides not to slow down-hits and runs).

    Once you find a clear opportunity, seize it. If you look at other people on the road, and they hesitate, making you hesitate too, then do not cross. Hesitation means no. However, if it’s clear for those few seconds it will take to cross the road, then dash across it. No I will not advise you to walk, so you better be wearing sturdy shoes. If you do walk, do it like you’re in a walking race. Trust me, traffic materializes out of nowhere so you better be brisk when you get a clear opportunity. Wait for as long as it takes, no matter how much of a hurry you are in to get wherever you are going, you don’t want to die getting there.

    Walk like this guy. Image from http://www.eracewalk.com

    Walk like this guy. Image from http://www.eracewalk.com

  • Crossing roads within the CBD is something else altogether. Most roads are narrow and clogged with traffic so you just have to be adept at squeezing through the little spaces between the vehicle bumpers. Nairobi roads teach you how to maneuver through crowds of people and vehicles, FBI agents should be taught how to lose a tail here.

    First of all, ignore all traffic lights and zebra crossings. That’s like an unwritten rule. Cross at all the wrong places. Except if there is a cop nearby, then maybe the motorists will stop at a red light, but no one ever slows down at a zebra crossing so don’t take your chances. If you are unsure of how/when/where to cross, follow the crowd.

    People crossing at Kencom Zebra Crossing. The stripes are invisible, if you look closely you might see them! Image from http://mutuamatheka.co.ke

    People crossing at Kencom Zebra Crossing. The stripes are invisible, if you look closely you might see them! Image from http://mutuamatheka.co.ke

    There’s always a crowd at some point in a road waiting to cross, and they at some point force the drivers to stop and give way. Take this opportunity to cross it.

Life in Nairobi for the average pedestrian is quite the hustle, from dodging matatus who drive you off the pavement you are meant to be walking on, to evading motorbike drivers who weave dangerously in and out of traffic (they also drive you off any pedestrian walkway); from being harassed by city council workers (this needs a whole guidebook on how to survive “kanjo”) to flitting across dangerous highways. Hopefully, reading this has helped you be more careful when crossing roads.

Appeal to Nairobi Governor

Dear Dr. Evans Kidero, please let us have footbridges on Mombasa Road. How are people expected to cross the highway? I know you have too much to do such that in the end you are doing nothing but in your roads budget, this is one thing you should take into account. Nairobi residents will thank you.

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4 Responses to Crossing the Roads in Nairobi

  1. cdooh says:

    I never run across the road, I think it doesn’t look good and also the “never run” thing was properly ingrained in me.

    Like

    • savvykenya says:

      It’s not so much a run as a trot.. but trust me you can hardly stroll when a reckless bus driver is stepping on the accelerator.

      Like

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