The day started on a very low note, on 3rd June Dr. Edwin Lawrence Khayo was killed by a hit and run driver while cycling on Thika Highway. A large number of cyclist have come to give him a memorial send-off and voice their concern about road safety especially when it comes to cyclist. Nairobi, just like any other big city has today increased number of cycling related accidents, this is mainly blamed on reckless driving and luck of proper infrastructure that can support and promote cycling.
A while back, a group (I mean a really large number) of cyclist in London put up a safety demonstration and campaign in the city to push for road safety awareness and concern. While they marched on the streets of London and concluded by laying on the road with lit candles, and meeting representatives of the government, they opened a debate on the importance of “safety first” for all road users. Apparently, cycling related deaths on London roads is alarming. More cyclist are killed in London roads more than any other city, Florida is at a close second per capita basis.
According to the World Health Organization, road traffic injuries caused an estimated 1.25 million deaths worldwide in the year 2010. That is, one person is killed every 25 seconds. Only 28 countries, representing 449 million people (7% of the world’s population), have adequate laws that address all five risk factors (speed, drink–driving, helmets, seat-belts and child restraints). Over a third of road traffic deaths in low- and middle-income countries are among pedestrians and cyclists. However, less than 35% of low- and middle-income countries have policies in place to protect these road users
For Nairobi, a city that has just picked up the cycling culture, things are not rosy and this is the reason. Our city has for a while now struggled with road discipline. It unfortunate in the 20 century, our roads are still and unsafe as when we never used to have a road at all. Most countries in Africa have struggled with infrastructure development, Kenya in one of those countries who are still behind. On the other hand our traffic laws implementation has been a hard nut to crack.
If you look at our highways for example, often there is over speeding by the drivers, overlapping, drunk and driving, reckless driving and the list goes on. At any time a reckless driver causes death, they always walk free and back on the road the following day. On a road that is expected to benefit everybody, it’s only the motorist who think that they deserve to be on it, when the road is for the public.
Since we have not secceded in infrastructure development, we don’t have designated spots for walking or cycling. Countries that are advanced in this have seen the number of cycling related accidents come down significantly and for us to be able to achieve that, we need to do the same, and even more.
What demonstrators in London were demanding is improved safety on the road, improved infrastructure by creating cycling lanes, amendments of laws to enable justice to prevail for the victims of careless driving. In Nairobi, we have started this long journey of pushing for the same, and for us, its a long and dark road. But for our campaign today, we want to say strongly that behind a helmet, there if a life and a family.
It is important that when people look at the person on the bike, they should not see the bike but human life. A life that is important and a life that should be protected and preserved. Everybody has a means to get him to where they are going and using a bike is one of those means. To respect somebody who is one a bike and accord him the much needed right to be on the road should not be something we debate about. But then our society is broken, and the other way to fix it is by voicing our concerns by demonstrations and petitions. This is unfortunate.
For the world cities that have managed to accord safety and enjoyment for cyclist, we can do nothing but emulate you. Cities like Amsterdam and Portland. On a trip to Spain and Barcelona, my eyes were open to how this advanced societies have embraced cycling as a way on life. How wonderful and safe it was cycling in Barcelona and Fitou. When we see this Cities in action, we have no doubt in our heart that this is a struggle that we can win, we have to win and we should win. A city, belongs to a generation and when we start thinking like that, we try and repair and mend the broken while we create the new.
Edwin Khayo was a doctor working at Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital. Am sure he loved his work, am sure he helped many people in his line of duty, am sure there people who are alive today because of his dedication to his work. He loved, loved to cycle. But am sad, because he is no more. His passion took him to his bike and because of one reckless driver, who could not respect human life, Edwin Khayo died at age 31 years. And for us, we are here to make sure that his death, is not in vain.
Today we cycle for a good cause, we cycle together for our brother. We light candled under the bridge where he lost his life and say a prayer to the fallen hero. And our desire is to let the world know that as a human being, there is no dignity in not respecting human life.
Let’s share the road, lets respect human life.