Thugs Pounce as Nairobians Team Up, Take Over City Roads

  • File image of cyclists in Nairobi
    File image of cyclists in Nairobi
    Citizen Digital
  • Despite being ignored for decades by urban planners and road construction agencies, dedicated cyclists have always existed in Nairobi.

    While some Nairobians use their bicycles as their main way of getting around the city, many others have adopted cycling for leisure.

    The culture has experienced a surge in popularity in recent months, with cycling hang-outs and meet-ups suddenly cropping up everywhere.

    A notable hallmark of the growing movement is the emergence of estate and city-wide cycling groups. The creation of these groups is informed partly by safety challenges cyclists in the city have long had to contend with. 

    An aerial photo of Nairobi
    An aerial photo of Nairobi
    Eddy Mwanza

    As established from conversations with a number of cyclists in Nairobi, theft of their bikes has been a long-standing issue.

    Aisha Waziri, an official of the Bikers' Group in Nyayo Highrise estate, listed vandalism and theft as some of the biggest obstacles to the growth of cycling culture in Kenya.

    "Even if you master how to cycle on all the Nairobi roads, it is not practical for many to use bicycles in their day to day because they are worried that the bikes will be stolen.

    "In most cases the thieves break through bike locks, and we have had several such cases. So you find that most people are unwilling to go with their bikes to the CBD for example unless they take the bike inside a building," she stated.

    She claimed that the situation was worse in residential estates where cyclists paid less attention to locking their bikes assuming that they were in a safe environment.

    "This year in Highrise alone I know of at least six cases of stolen bikes. I think only two belonged to kids. They are usually taken and sold far away from here that you can't track them down," she stated.

    Aisha further claimed that police were sluggish in their response to such cases, noting that stolen bicycles were rarely ever found.

    Emma*, an ardent cyclist in Lang'ata, Nairobi stated that the fear had inspired the formation of cycling groups.

    "One of the big reasons these groups exist is to do safety trainings, so we are seeing a lot more of that. Also when you ride in a large group it is very difficult for thugs to single you out," she stated.

    Emma noted that the security situation was a major reason why bike-sharing applications were not practical in Kenya.

    "I think we need to fix it if we are to grow. It is a fact that cycling is much better for the environment even in terms of Carbon emissions, but the idea of a cycling-friendly Nairobi is still far off.

    "We could be having people abandon their cars and share bikes spread across the city but you always hear fears on safety, and there is also a general lack of trust," she observed.

    Several groups have emerged, offering Nairobians the chance to take part in ride-alongs with other members of the cycling community.

    Members are required to show up for rides in protective gear including helmets and reflective vests.

    They offer training to residents of all ages on navigating the city roads on bicycles. Large rides with several people enhance the training and foster a sense of community.

    At the same time, however, long-standing challenges including reckless drivers and lack of bicycle lanes continue to persist.

    The Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) rolled out works in July on several CBD streets to create lanes for cyclists and pedestrians.

    It is part of a broader plan to de-congest the city by increasing the adoption of non-motorised transport.

    Among the earmarked roads were Kenyatta Avenue, Wabera and Muindi Mbingu streets.

    File image of cyclists in Nairobi
    File image of cyclists in Nairobi
    thieves stolen thug