Despite Risks, Nairobi Gives Cycling A Spin In Pandemic Bike Push
Umer Jamshaid 10 days ago Fri 19th February 2021 | 09:00 AM
Nairobi, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 19th Feb, 2021 ) :Nairobi, morning rush hour: the only cyclist on a busy highway, Steven Odhiambo is narrowly overtaken by a fast-moving minibus.
The other choice is cramming into a 'matatu': colourfully painted minibuses jammed with some 15 commuters that hurtle around the city streets.
He wears a bright yellow vest and blows a whistle to make his presence known on his morning rides to the office.
It is a harrowing 15-kilometre (nine miles) journey without the protection of bike lanes, and he must navigate between antiquated trucks, speeding SUVs and motorcycles criss-crossing the lanes.
Despite the perilous conditions, not to mention two minor accidents, Odhiambo has no intention of backpedalling.
He says he lost 20 kilogrammes (44 Pounds) getting in the saddle, and made significant savings on transport thanks to a used bike he purchased for about 15,000 Kenyan shillings ($136 or 115 Euros) "The best way to sensitise people about cycling and going green is to show people the benefit of it," he said.
It is a promising sign in a city where air pollution has increased 182 percent since the 1970s, according to a recent study by the University of Birmingham, and traffic jams cost an estimated $1 billion in lost productivity every year.
In his store for used bikes in the city centre, Jimmy Karumba said he experienced at least a 50 percent rise in sales in last year.
The shopkeeper, who mainly sold children's bikes before the pandemic, said he welcomed many adult customers looking to avoid public transport and stay fit.
In May, Benard Asin founded Spin Kings, a group dedicated to biking enthusiasts, and witnessed a surge to around 300 members in a matter of weeks.
"I was even speechless. I didn't expect it to pick up that fast," the 27-year-old social worker said.
"I can say 99 percent started cycling after the pandemic." While most remembered the basics "many people didn't know about changing gears," he said.
- 'Cyclists' lives matter' - Cyprine Odada of Critical Mass, an alliance of cyclist groups that holds monthly rides of up to 1,000 people in Nairobi, said the pandemic had shown policymakers that biking was popular and not exclusively transport for the poor.
"Weirdly, Covid has been good for cycling," said Odada.
Many novices have sought out Critical Mass for advice about staying safe, said the 34-year-old urban planner.
Between the scarcity of bicycle paths and often total absence of footpaths "our roads are a death trap", said Odada.
In the city, some bikers have taken to wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan: "Cyclists' lives matter".