NAIROBI, Kenya (ABC 4 Utah) - Driving in Kenya – especially the capital of Nairobi – is a contact sport. Not that it is always fast, but like the famed Serengeti, it is survival of the fittest.
Yes, Kenya has traffic laws, but perhaps they are better described as traffic suggestions.
On the main roads the unwritten law – whatever you can get away with – is more relevant.
For example: When does a red light not mean stop? When there’s an opening. There were several occasions when we saw cars ignore red lights, especially at traffic circles. Whatever you can get away with …
Once in a traffic circle you are sometimes challenged to a slow-motion game of chicken. Hint: The biggest vehicle almost always wins.
World of Difference team member Melanie Yakemovic said, “The phrase our driver uses is, ‘Pole pole, como ka unga,’ which is, ‘Slowly, slowly like a chameleon.’ That’s kind of how you get through traffic here.”
Vans for hire are everywhere. They’re called Matatus and they can stop for a customer anywhere, even if they’re blocking traffic.
Motorcycles – also for hire – can go anywhere.
Speed limit signs do exist, but there are several other ways to slow traffic that are much more effective: 1) pot holes and 2) speed bumps.
Speed bumps are on neighborhood streets, boulevards and even what they call super-highways. On the Thika super-highway, the bumps slows traffic for crosswalks. Yes, there are also crosswalks on a super-highway.
During rush hour, entrepreneurs stake out their dashed white line near speed bumps to conduct a little business. We saw them hawk newspapers, towels and souvenirs.
One more thing about speed, there are signs on the backs of many commercial trucks and vans that read, “80 KPH.” That means there is a governor or limiter on the engine of that vehicle that prevents it from going faster than 80 kilometers an hour – about 50 miles per hour.
In all, it was a bumpy ride for team members on this expedition to Kenya. Then again, that was just a part of the adventure.