Nairobi has been ranked the second-worst city in the world on traffic congestion.
According to the Serbia-based website numbeo.com, the 2017 Traffic Index lists Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) in India as the most congested city in the world.
Mumbai, also in India, is ranked third, followed by Jakarta (Indonesia) and Manila (Philippines).
Traffic Index is a composite index of time consumed in traffic due to commuting to work, estimation of time consumption dissatisfaction, carbon dioxide consumption estimation in traffic and overall inefficiencies in the traffic system.
On average, Nairobians spend 62.44 minutes in traffic while Kolkatans spend an average of 68.86, Mumbai 60.11, Jakarta 56.98 and Manila 56.77 minutes.
But Nairobi leads in the top five cities in Africa with the worst traffic, followed by Cairo in Egypt (51.56 minutes) and South African cites Pretoria (49.00), Johannesburg (45.15), Cape Town (44.15) and Durban (53.12).
Speaking to the Nation, Mr Frederick Karanja, the Nairobi County chief officer for roads and public works, said the volume of cars has contributed to the endless traffic jams in the city.
Mr Karanja said lack of a proper and organised public transport system in the city has increased the number of personal vehicles.
“Nowadays, it is easy to acquire a vehicle, which makes the volumes of cars in the city increase rapidly. This has contributed to traffic jams in the city,” said Mr Karanja.
He adds that the nature of Nairobi’s roads is also to blame, with the designs a major contributor to jams.
He cited Thika Road as one of the highways posing serious challenges. It has more than eight lanes on the city’s outskirts, gets another feeder road at Muthaiga but towards Ngara, the number of lanes drops, causing a snarl-up to the city centre.
However, efforts are under way to ease the traffic jams, according to Mr Karanja. Key roads around the city are being built or expanded, such as Outer Ring and Ngong roads, he said.
A number of key terminuses are also being built outside the city centre to serve public service minibuses (matatus), which would not have to reach the city centre.
They include Park Road/Ngara for all matatus from the central Kenya; Pangani, currently under construction; and Muthurwa, which is complete and is only awaiting gazettement.
Cleared of hawkers
Mr Karanja said the Muthurwa terminus would be cleared of hawkers for effective use by matatus and buses from Eastlands.
Mr Karanja also blamed motorcycle taxis (boda boda) operators, pedestrians and taxis for the traffic mess.
The taxis park on roads, eating up precious space, though they were expected to be constantly on the move.
“We did away with taxi ranks to encourage them to move around, picking and dropping off passengers, like it happens in other countries. Instead, they have been parking on the roads in the city,” Mr Karanja said.
For their part, boda boda operators continue to be a major menace, operating with impunity and endangering the lives of pedestrians though they are banned from operating in the city centre.
But nominated Member of County Assembly (MCA) Jacquiline Nyangala criticised county officials for doing little to address the traffic menace.
A good business
She said the county assembly passed motions to tackle traffic jams in the city, but they have never been implemented.
A lobby for the boda boda operators - City Riders Sacco - said traffic jams in the city were a good business opportunity for its members, whose motorcycles can easily manoeuvre through the gridlock.
Boda boda taxis charge between $1 and $2 (Sh100 and Sh200) for rides within the city centre and more for destinations farther away.
Lobby chairman Denis Ochieng' urged the county to allocate boda boda taxis designated spots where they can pick up and drop off passengers to avoid the cat-and-mouse games with city askaris.