Why bypasses have pushed up road accident toll
By BEATRICE OBWOCHA
In the first 11 months of this year, one in seven road crash deaths in Nairobi happened on the bypasses, a Nation Newsplex examination of road traffic data from the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has revealed.
The statistics show 133 people have died on the three bypasses since the first one was opened in 2014.
In 2014, 50 people were killed on the three roads. By November 27 this year, that number had been surpassed. Even though there is still one month to go to the end of this year, 83 deaths have been reported, a 66 per cent increase.
On the Eastern Bypass, 37 people were killed between January and November, followed by the Northern Bypass with 31 and the Southern Bypass with 15.
The high number of deaths has led to the entry of the bypasses onto the list of high risk roads in Nairobi. Initially, the list had six roads – Mombasa, Thika, Kangundo, North Airport, Waiyaki and Jogoo roads. The nine roads account for almost half of deaths in Nairobi.
The number of casualties is not the only factor used to determine whether a road is high risk. There is also human-vehicle conflict and deaths per kilometre, says Duncan Kibogong, the NTSA deputy director of Safety Strategies & County Committees.
The most vulnerable users on the bypasses are pedestrians by far, followed by passengers, drivers and motorcyclists. Pedestrians made up six out of 10 deaths, passengers two out of 10, motorcyclists and drivers about seven per cent each.
Pedal cyclists and pillion passengers jointly made up less than two per cent of total deaths. On the Southern Bypass, almost 90 per cent of deaths were pedestrians’.
What is happening on the bypasses is a perfect example of the conflict between road users. The roads are smooth, with many lanes and vehicles travelling at high speed, yet there are few footbridges and other clearly marked pedestrian crossing. Pedestrians often shun the few that are there. The result is that the two compete for use of the road and the pedestrians trying to cross lose out.
So, were the bypasses that are relatively new designed without safety in mind? Dr Kibogong says it was not so much about the road designs but the failure of different stakeholders to plan for the future.
“The areas where the roads pass were empty fields but once the bypasses were completed, people sold the land to developers who built houses, shopping centres and other buildings by the roads. The roads design had not taken that into consideration,” he said.
The Eastern Bypass runs from Mombasa Road through Cabanas, Pipeline, Njiru and Thika Road, onwards.
NTSA Road Safety Director Mathew Munyao says all bypasses are “speed roads” and the Eastern one was initially constructed without footbridges.
He named areas where crashes occur frequently as Pipeline and the stretch between Cabanas and Taj Mall.
“A footbridge was recently put up but most people don’t use it hence they are hit by speeding vehicles,” he said.
Mr Munyao said plans are under way to put up guard rails to deter pedestrians from crossing the road so they can use the foot bridge. He also said motorists are at risk on the Eastern Bypass because of many trucks.
“Dangerous overtaking by small vehicles causes crashes on this road, which is a single carriageway because they are inpatient and want to overtake slow moving trucks,” he said. Most head-on collisions occur in Embakasi, Ruai and Ruiru junctions.
The Northern Bypass connects Thika Road to Ruaka. The black spots on this road have been identified as the junction connecting Kiambu Road to the bypass and Ruaka. The main cause of death is speeding, as the road has few sections for pedestrian crossing.
The Southern Bypass, opened this year, runs from Kikuyu to Mombasa Road, through Ngong and Lang’ata roads.
“This is a high-speed highway with no clear provision for pedestrians. There is lack of homogeneity of traffic, people walking slowly and cars speeding,” he said.
Mr Munyao named the stretch of the road that runs through the Kibera slum as a black spot. The most affected sections are Raila and Gatwikira sections within the slum.
“Crashes on these areas are caused by negligence because there is a tunnel that people do not use,” he said. He said chain link fence — to prevent pedestrians from crossing — and proper signage, have been put up in the affected areas.