Sue & Richard update – a guide to road travel in Kenya
We hope this is a helpful guide to anyone thinking of using Kenya’s roads. Think of it as a kind of Highway Code (but not as we know it)
Finding your way around.
Most signposts, especially those at major junctions, have fallen down if they were ever there. Ask the locals for help.
Signal Right if you are intending to go straight on or if you are stopping on the left. If you want to turn right, do not signal; just turn quickly, especially if there is a vehicle following you. If you see another vehicle signalling right, overtake it.
Simple rule: do it at all times under all circumstances, but especially when there is oncoming traffic, when there is a sharp bend or anywhere else where visibility is impaired. You may overtake on either side.
You may travel on either side of the central reservation (or on it). If you are facing the oncoming traffic, it will just have to get out of the way.
These are placed across the road at various heights in unpredictable places to destroy your car’s suspension. They are unmarked. They can be useful if you wish to overtake other vehicles that actually slow down to negotiate the bump.
These occur without warning on any road. Sometimes the road simply changes from tarmac to rough rocks or dirt, and sometimes the road is simply closed.
Everyone has right of way. If there is a gap, fill it immediately. If there is no gap, move forward anyway. If you indicate at all, indicate right, no matter which direction you are going in (see above).
The more the merrier! Kenya is not on the same planet as Europe and the US, so it’s fine for large buses and lorries in particular to belch out black smoke. This knowledge could be helpful to VW if they have surplus vehicles for sale at present.
A score of 50% or more is good.
Remember, most roads in Kenya are narrow with steep edges and are unlit at night. Cyclists wearing dark clothing on black bikes do not need to use lights.
This can mean ‘I am giving way’ or alternatively ‘Get out of the way: I’m coming through’ (more usually the latter)
Hazard warning lights.
Use these randomly whenever you wish, whether stationary or moving. There are always hazards around, after all!
There is a national shortage of white paint in Kenya, meaning that there are no road markings for junctions, middle of the road (or, of course, speed bumps).
These are two wheeled machines that carry a family of five (small child in front, father next driving, then mother, with two more children behind. Alternatively the motorbike can be used to carry goods horizontally such as 8 feet of metal sheeting, a security gate or another broken-down motorbike; or 10 large crates vertically. Motorbikes can go anywhere, in any direction, at any time. Motorbike taxis are called boda bodas. No licence is needed for any motorbike rider, as riding a motorbike is just the same as riding a pedal bike. This is, of course, reassuring for passengers on the boda boda motorbike taxis. Crash helmets are a legal requirement and are therefore hardly ever worn.
These are small three-wheeled machines imported from India. They carry up to eleven people, or large quantities of luggage such as twelve plastic chairs on the roof. Like motorbikes, they can go in any direction at any time.
These are minibuses that carry an unlimited number of people and vast quantities of luggage. All the above rules about signalling and overtaking, plus the ‘any direction, any time’ principles, are especially applicable to matatus.
Basically an enormous version of a matatu, driven in the same way. The main advantage over travelling by matatus is that if you are hot, you can climb onto the roof or swing out of the open doorway while travelling along.
The above is based on real-life experience in the past two weeks or so. Today’s Daily Nation newspaper reports that 1899 Kenyans (mainly motorbike riders and pedestrians) died on the roads in the first eight months of 2015. Please continue to pray for our safety as we travel around, and for a change in the national approach to road safety!
I will aim to post another update on what we’re actually doing in the next day or two, internet permitting! There was none last night, following torrential rain. Tonight, we have had more heavy rain and thunder and lightning right overhead. Power has flickered a few times, but it’s still on at the moment!
Thank you for your prayers and support.