Monday, 11 March 2013

How to cross the road in Kenya

There are no traffic lights in Kenya. There are zebra crossings on the roads, but no one pays them any attention, they might as well be decoration for the roads for all the locals care. 'Oh look at this nice black and white stripey bit of road, how quaint.'

Roundabouts are an inconvenience but not something that people usually slow down for, I've been on motorbikes here where the driver has SPED UP to go around the roundabout, which goes against everything my driving instructor ever told me... 'OFF GAS, OFF GAS' I shriek as I cling to the driver for my life. Living here has completely changed my opinion of overtaking, people will overtake in the smallest gaps, even when it is completely unnecessary.

Watch and learn...

If the car horn was a musical instrument, Kenyans would all be Grade 8s playing at the Royal Albert Hall.

Generally driving in Kenya is one giant game of dodgems. 

Which is scary enough when you're in a vehicle, but when you're a pedestrian staring across an ocean of cars, matatus, tuk tuks, motorbikes and lorries... you start to wish you'd written a will.

Some roads in Mombasa city centre are three lanes wide in each direction. That is SIX LANES of moving traffic to negotiate your sweaty, clumsy legs across - all the while being beeped at and swerving between exhaust pipes and hot bonnets.

Here's my guide to crossing the road in Kenya:

1. Find a local waiting to cross and plant yourself firmly next to them, preferably positioning yourself so that the traffic hits them first

2. Watch them like a hawk

3. When they move, you move. Just like that.

3a. If there are no locals around, use the following advice as a guide. Never look for a space, there is never going to be a space - you have to make a space yourself by stepping into moving traffic.

4. NEVER RUN. Running shows weakness and establishes yourself as a newcomer. Only the tourists run, you know that. Do you want to be seen as a tourist? Do you? Everyone steps in front of traffic and walks calmly in the face of a big hissing noisy truck which WILL slow down for you. Pole pole in Swahili means there is no hurry. The only time I've ever seen someone move fast across the road is when they were just about to get squished between a matatu and a truck and they made the snap decision to break into a jog.

5. If the traffic is slow moving, try and just step in to the path of a slow moving vehicle, squeeze through gaps and slide across bonnets for extra points.

Or, just do what I do some days and plot a route that involves CROSSING NO ROADS.

In conclusion: Crossing the road in Kenya is dangerous and will get you killed. ONLY KIDDING. Take it slow and steady with confidence and you'll be just fine.

Happy crossing! I won't accept any responsibility for any accidents that occur, especially bonnet rolls.