Archive for the ‘Road Safety’ Category

Outer BizOutering Road expansion project which is now 25% complete is slowly shaping up into a new look and will definitely be one of the iconic features  of Nairobi given the huge structures that are being erected by the Chinese contractors. According to Kenya Urban Roads Authority (KURA -), new funding has to be negotiated between Kenyan government and African Development Bank (AfDB-) to finance the new design near Taj Mall area.  Road construction cutting across busy and densely populated neighborhoods will always cause some level of disruption and its value cannot be quantified financially but social impacts can be gradually experienced and Outering Road expansion project will not be an exception.

Some years back when Thika Highway was being upgraded, section between Guru Nanak and Fig Tree along Murang’a was dotted with several petrol stations, car selling yards and was turning into being the alternative business hub of some kind. But once the road was complete, all the vibrancy was gone and Murang’a Road turned into being quite neighborhood with a busy highway unfriendly to public transport users while pedestrians have to walk long distance to use a bridge.

Looking at Outering Road expansion, many businesses have been displaced or forced to relocate to pave way the road construction. This is already causing strain on the limited business spaces within the affected communities and which has affected renting rates. A walk inside Kariobangi Market and along Kagundo Road near Umoja reveals an already over crowded place that cannot accommodate new traders while there are no enough social amenities. The remaining option has been to turn some of the residential houses into business premises. The previously easy life of doing business along Outering Road and crossing the road is all gone.

From the look of things, road construction should also come along with investing in the affected neighborhoods (Mathare North, Baba Dogo, Mathare, Kariobangi North/South, Buru Buru, Umoja, Donholm, Mukuru, Tena, Pipeline estates.) Construction and expansion of already existing markers in areas such as Kariobangi South, Umoja, Donholm and Pipeline can help mitigate socio-economic stress related with road construction effects. The motorist users will definitely appreciate the new developments given the nightmare of traffic jam associated with the current status of the road.

Investing in road infrastructure without considering social implication of the development to the neighboring communities can be catastrophic for the future generation. When Waiyaki Way was upgraded some years back with funding from the European Union, it was hailed by all. Unfortunately some years later communities were cut off from social networks, social amenities such markets and hospitals, left with uncovered quarries filled with rain water, a nice road without footbridges and regular pedestrian deaths.

Nairobi County government needs to be supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to invest prudently in social projects such as markets and business parks to spur economic within the affected neighborhoods since the county government is busy decentralizing some of its services. All the Nairobi County managed markets are in poor state and requires expansion to accommodate more traders.

Emission from motor vehicles has been known to be the biggest contributor of air pollution. Increased tree covered in the affected communities can help reduce the effect of air pollution.

Three lessons from Thika Superhighway experience are; road construction is not a preserve of the Ministry of Roads and associated agencies alone but well co-ordinate partnerships with all parties involved. Public awareness on various aspect of road needs to star early or concurrently with the ongoing road construction so that by the time road is being completed, community members are conversant with newly introduced road features. This can help save lives and motivate road users to utilize new road features such as footbridges, walk paths and bicycle lanes. Finally loans negotiated for road project should not focus alone of road features but include some funding for social investment and policy changes in conjunction with county governments. There is no need of constructing bicycle tracks while the government has not enacted positive laws/rules to motivate ownership and use of bicycles.


Road Signs

The ongoing road construction activities along Outering Road has started to attract people especially regular users of the road both motorists and pedestrians alike.
On different occasion I have witnessed passengers in public vehicle taking a few snap shots with their mobile phones.
  Mega structures are coming up which has attracted attention of road users. Pedestrians and curios residents are seen on site enjoying to see how construction is taking place oblivious of the dangers they are exposed to. On the other hand there are no road signs to warn the curious onlookers and sign available are not visible as a warning signs.
Construction sites are protected areas for those without safety protective gears. Safety for both workers and other road users is important.
Road Construction Signs

ReliEnvironmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) is a process carried before any infrastructure development to ascertain the real impact and benefits of the project on the social, environment and what will be the mitigations to be undertaken to reduce negative biodiversity impacts. One of the key successes of any ESIA is by ensuring all stakeholders associated with the project are involved so that nobody is left out. These projects may be associated with housing, roads, dams, buildings and roads among others.

Kenya is increasingly experiencing implementation of major projects many being funded by big multilateral agencies such as European Union, AfDB and World Bank for electrification, geothermal and road constructions. One of the major requirements apart from project proposal is the institution of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for any project together with Social and Environmental Management Plan (SEMP). But how many people take intense look at both ESIA and especially SEMP report and monitor if the recommendations stated in these documents are being carried out?

The assumption is that the mitigation of negative impacts as stated in the recommendations will be adhered to by the engineers, government agencies, and community or project affecting persons who all have a major role in ensuring the project is implemented according to the original plans.

At what stage do we have ESIA National Environmental Management Authority making follow up after any projects ends and can the ESIA and SEMP reports still be used beyond the project timeline? Once the project starts, it is expected that the contractor will provide environmental management plan and possibly share it with the community and relevant authorities. Walking across major roads in Nairobi, it is common to notice open man holes and unfinished projects with no contractor on side which continuously poses a great danger to motorists and pedestrians. Look at Juja Road, Nairobi where a contractor left the site more than 10 years ago and unfinished open drainages, regular cabling projects and lack of pedestrians walking paths.

Lesson for Outering Road: On 31st May 2015, Citizen TV 9.00 pm news, aired item from of members of the public complaining about dangers posed by the open drainages and comments from victims along Thika Superhighway apart from regular road accidents. This clearly shows that once the project is finished then ESIA and SEMP becomes a forgotten document. Regular negative news from the much praised Thika Superhighway is not encouraging. The number of road accident especially by the pedestrian is quite high despite construction of footbridges together will less efforts to clear open air traders who have encroached on the pedestrian and bicycle paths is not encouraging.
The only visible ‘SEMP visible along Thika Superhighway is regular road maintenance most of it partly attributed by frequent road accidents. As the government and AfDB embarks on upgrading of Outering Road, it will be important for stakeholders to be informed and engaged in ensuring that Social and Environmental Management Plan is fully respected and monitored for a successfully projects.

DSCF5237Finally the much awaited Outering Road construction was officially launched by President Uhuru Kenya on 22/1/2015. The new road will have new features such high speed and service lanes, walking and bicycle paths, bridges and flyovers. With these new development, it is expected that road users will be forced to up their skills how they interact with the road especially, public transport vehicles, pedestrians and motorists.

Public transport will have to content with ‘small’ space allocated as bus stop for busy routes such as Kayole, Umoja and Juja Road which have several bus / matatu numbers. Self discipline and obeying road signs will help reduce an unnecessary traffic jam and accidents.

Despite the road being busy and located in densely populated areas it does not have a single foot bridge. Pedestrians will enjoy the services of more than 10 footbridges along the 13Km road and side walks. Currently, some pedestrians have been knocked while attempting to cross the road. Experience from Thika Super Highway has shown that there is need to create awareness on road safety which the road is being constructed plus ensuring community participate identifying appropriate location for bridges based on access to resources as such as markets, learning institutions, bus stops and residential areas.

Outering Road will have high speed lanes which will see easier movement of people and goods. This will call for road design that will deter pedestrians from crossing at undesignated areas.

Cyclists will enjoy the new cycling lanes which were not there before. The Kenya Urban Roads Authority and Nairobi County government should ensure that walking and cycling paths are protected so as not to be invaded by hawkers and other open air traders as in the case of Thika Super High Way at Githurai and GSU fly over.

All road users will have to develop new skills once the new look Outering Road is completed. Given that this will be most high speed road, use of CCTV cameras will come in handy in nabbing traffic offenders while associated agencies can carry our massive awareness on road safety before the completion of the project. – Simon