The decision to start cycling in Nairobi was not an easy one considering the kind of dangerous driving we witness on our roads. From the notorious Matatus, personal vehicles to boda bodas and not forgetting the pedestrians (story for another day). I initially thought i'd ride through back alleys on weekends so that I don’t come anywhere near the main roads but I figured what the heck ain't no fun riding in vichorochoros. the last time I had ridden bike was so long ago I couldn’t remember. I live about 8km (one way) from place of work and to tell you the truth the first few days I was petrified. The constant harassment by matatus by honking and cutting you off can leave you livid and seething with anger. It’s now over 3 years and counting of commuting in Nairobi and have no regrets.
These last few years have taught me a few lessons one learns very quickly when cycling in Nairobi.
The roads are cyclist unfriendly.
Obvious isn’t it? As a passenger in a vehicle, you have no idea how real this is until you hop into a bike and ride for a few kms. Most roads are narrow and the pedestrian walkways are so small and leaves no room for cyclists. The new roads being built are abit accommodating though the only road I know that has a dedicated cycling lane is the Kileleshwa bypass. Extra caution is advised when riding in these narrow roads.
Be alert at all times
This can never be over emphasised. Anything and I mean anything can happen and it probably will. Beware of buses, mini buses and lorries as they have a blind spot to cyclists while overtaking on the left. I have had countless near misses with them. Beware of pedestrians crossing. Pedestrians tend to overlook cyclists when crossing the road. I have had 2 accidents with pedestrians who never ‘saw’ me coming.
Always communicate what you intend to do
Never assume drivers know what you intend to do or that they are seeing you. Use hand signals to warn of your intentions especially when turning right, in junctions and roundabouts.
Do not take unnecessary risks
I have seen some stunts many cyclists pull and am left wondering if they love their lives? Remember that when cycling your body is exposed and even a small collision or fall can be fatal. Maintain a manageable speed that you can easily control the bike in case of an emergency.
Have a well-serviced bike
This will not only make your ride smooth and enjoyable but will also make you reach your destination faster. There is nothing more irritating than a bike that breaks down too frequently.
Always carry a repair kit
You need to have a repair kit for those tyre puctures that can happen anywhere. If you don’t know how to repair a puncture, learn how to, it comes in handy especially when you are in a place where a bike repair is miles away.