Highway of death: Who will stop the increasing accidents on Thika Road?
Posted Saturday, April 28 2012 at 22:30
- Police estimate that since January 1, more than 70 people have died on Thika Road, and another 142 on other Nairobi roads.
- The statistics do not include those who succumb to injuries in hospitals, which would make the toll much higher.
- The new highway was designed to open up transport into Nairobi from the satellite municipalities of Thika and Kiambu and surrounding settlements.
- How many more lives must be lost on the killer highway before somebody finds a solution to the carnage?
He exudes an air of invincibility when he says he has seen and lived through plenty. “Kifo ni moja. Shida ni kuingoja,” he says, explaining the inevitability of death.
But when he narrates the death of a close friend, he accuses someone, saying it could not have been a death predetermined by God. It was not fate.
“That matatu man was speeding,” he says. “There is no way he could have stopped in time to avoid hitting him,” he says, giving an emotional account of what happened to his friend, also a boda boda rider.
At no point does he mention his friend was driving on the wrong lane. The police report indicates that he rode into oncoming traffic after a section of the highway had been closed for maintenance.
“There were no signs for people coming into town to expect oncoming traffic. He took a bend and right in front of him was a speeding matatu,” says Mr Mburu.
His friend died instantly and became part of the statistics. Police say at least 13 motorcycle riders have died on Nairobi roads since January.
For Nonano Mwangi, 33, who operates his pushcart on the Githurai flyover, traversing the highway is a matter of life and death.
“Nowadays, getting back home is not something we take for granted,” says Mr Mwangi.
“The designers forgot us. We are left struggling for space with buses and matatus. We can’t compete with them when they are moving at 140kph. Each day is like being on a suicide-watch list.”
He waits for clients just under the flyover. Next to him is Kevin Oduor, a roast maize seller. The spot he currently occupies used to be his cousin’s.
“A bus knocked him dead,” he says. “The driver lost control of the vehicle and it went over the concrete barrier and slammed into him.”
A few metres away, the monotony of the shiny metallic barrier lining the road is broken by a strip of red and white tape.
Such sections are visible after several kilometres. These indicate areas where speeding vehicles have rammed against the steel rails, most of the time with fatal results.
Mr Mwangi and Mr Oduor are just two of hundreds of vendors selling vegetables, sweets, sugarcane and so on, along the road. They insist they are not breaking any law.
“If this were illegal, why would the City Council be collecting tax from us every day,” asks Reuben Kimani. He sells water on the highway.
The mushrooming markets pose the greatest dangers to drivers and pedestrians. There’s constant human traffic crisscrossing the highway either to buy or sell something from someone on the other end.