Matatu Culture or BRT?

Let’s take a moment and thank the emergence of online meetings. We all can agree that the pros of online meetings are way more than the cons. I mean who could have imagined one could have access to these prominent workshops that one needed great connection to get in. Also taking classes in the comfort of my home. Interesting if you ask me.

Wait that’s not what we are here to talk about today on this post. Hail to the online everything. At least now most of us have cut the cost of travel expenses, the chaos, traffic jams. Thank God we don’t have to go through that anymore. And please if any meeting can be done online don’t bother setting up a physical meeting, I mean we are keeping up social distance (or don’t just make me go through Nairobi’s Traffic chaos for that)

Today’s post was inspired by the virtual workshop I attended last month. It was organized by ITDP Africa. The workshop assessed the current and planned BRT systems in Africa which is:

  • Nairobi Thika Road BRT.
  • the Addis Ababa B2 BRT system.
  • the Cairo BRT system.
  • the Dar es Salaam BRT.
  • the Kigali bus sector modernization.

Head over to their website and listen to the webinar recordings and presentation of the workshop.

Mobility is a crucial topic in Kenya. The experts discussed most of the solutions that can be used to sort the mobility issue in Nairobi. The major takeaway I had from the webinar is that it is better for Kenya to benchmark on the already similar working systems rather than generating new unproven systems to be implemented.

Let’s talk about matatu culture. We refer to it as a “Club on Wheels,” Most of them are loud, with beautiful graffiti-style paintings, custom designs, flashing lights, and onboard entertainment to attract the attention of the young passengers.

The matatu sector has benefited greatly from technological advancements. Some offer high-speed internet access as well as power outlets for charging phones and other electronic devices. Once the car has been pimped up and it has left the garage, it will be marketed to matatu fans on social media sites.

According to Kenya’s Transport Ministry, 70 percent of the city’s 4.5 million commuters rely on these minibusses to get around. these privately owned taxis that transport multiple passengers have developed from a mode of transportation to a way of life.

  • they are the largest employer of youth in Kenya.
  • they are used to communicate Kenyan pop culture,
  • premiere new music videos and sometimes interactively transmit conscience messages.
  • They are an important part of Kenya’s heritage and authenticity.

The uniqueness of the culture attracts visitors who tend to be amazed by the vibrant design, including American celebrities like Cardi B, Chris Brown, and Trey Songs.

While Matatus are the preferred mode of transportation for most Kenyans, they are inexpensive, easy but sometimes chaotic. To keep ahead of the competition, matatu touts and drivers are known for causing havoc on the busy streets of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. They are known for violating most traffic laws, particularly during rush hours.

The Matatus have destinations, but no schedules. They compete for the same routes and leave only when all passengers are on board; otherwise, the trip would not be worthwhile. Buses with the best artwork, the friendliest drivers, and the most entertaining conductors fill up fastest.

As a regular user of Matatus, I have had a fair share of some negative experiences with them. some touts are always rude for no reason and it is believed that “nganya” has some favoritism that only attractive girls are allowed to take the front seat with the driver.

A loving and loathing culture paradox exists within Matatu culture. The urban youth see them as a source of identity while some visitors and older generations see all they are as chaotic.

However, government bans and alternative modes of public transportation can soon put Matatu culture at risk. Clearly, the introduction of the BRT in Nairobi will have a significant impact on many workers who rely on the matatu industry for their livelihoods.

Read about BRT

Govt announces schedule for Nairobi BRT buses

https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/business/sci-tech/article/2001406387/brt-system-begins-to-take-shape-on-superhighway

After the introduction of BRT, it is also certain that the matatu business would continue to play an important role in Nairobi’s transportation system, providing feeder routes and transit services in areas where BRT does not serve.

Therefore, the key question is how to develop and integrate this crucial aspect of the public transport system properly with BRT needs to be dealt with.

Whether or not BRT is successfully implemented, Kenya’s plans for an eco-friendly and integrated passenger transport system still need to address some key issues in the city. The formalization of employment, elimination of extortion, corruption, reducing congestion and pollution are essential to mobility in Kenya.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Pre-independence Planning Attemtps Of Nairobi

The emergence of planning in Nairobi can be traced back to the arrival of the train in the plains of the  River Nrobi. This place was chosen by the railway builders as an ideal resting spot while awaiting the ascent of the steep Limuru escarpments. Kenya’s first proposal was to establish a railroad town along the rails, a colonialist’s first infrastructure built to link the hinterland to the coastal region.

Nairobi was a good option because it provided a convenient stopover between Mombasa and Kisumu, as well as sufficient water supply from the nearby Nairobi and Mbagathi rivers. The terrain was relatively flat, making factories, industrial areas, and a depot possible.

Following the establishment of the railway depot, certain spatial trends emerged, including the railway station, a shopping center, housing quarters, and the Indian bazaar. This layout was based on the 1898 Railway Town Plan and the 1899 Railway Staff Quarters Plan.

Nairobi’s transformation from a railway town to an administrative and commercial center under the British protectorate was aided by the move of provincial offices from Machakos to Nairobi first, and then the protectorate headquarters from Mombasa to Nairobi.

In 1900, the city became Nairobi’s first township. This was the beginning of the town’s municipal government. By this time, the city had grown into a large and prosperous town, with settlements primarily consisting of KUR structures, separate residential neighborhoods for Europeans and Indians, and a small African settlement in Eastland. By 1909, a large part of Nairobi’s internal structure was already built, particularly in the Central Business District (CBD). In the year 1919 Nairobi was named as a municipal council with corporate rights

Nairobi was 25Km2 in 1920, 90km2 in 1927, and 684 square kilometers in 1995. Nairobi’s business and regulatory status extended related to its populace. Key business roads like Delamere Street- now Kenyatta Avenue and Government Road-now Moi Avenue, became significant shopping zones as zones like Bazaar Street now-Biashara Street emerged. Hence, a lot of the old buildings in the town are also located on these streets

With the commissioning of the 1948 Master plan by the Nairobi Municipal Council and the Railway Authority, the settler capital was further elevated to a colonial capital. The plan’s main goal was to make Nairobi more appealing as a capital for Kenya and the East African region. The plan, like other proposals for colonial capitals, aimed to improve relations between the colonizing nation and the colonial territory.

Nairobi-Master-Plan-for-a-Colonial-Capital-Source-

However, the plan was specific, focusing on European and Asian traders, with the raised grounds toward the west saved for private use. Since the land seemed, by all accounts, to be abandoned (pastoralism practice by the Masais), it provided opportunities for land appropriation.

In the early stages of the growth of Nairobi, racial character in various places portrays the racial segregation created by spatial organizations. Europeans lived on the railways in the north and west;in areas where they had easy access to ports and roads for the transportation of goods, the colonisers developed centers of life represented by administrative, cultural, economic, and recreational activities.. Africans and Indians were restricted to the eastern and southern regions.

As a result, the spatial structures of Nairobi, became overly dependent on a limited number of economic geographic areas.With a few exceptions, these land-uses have remained unchanged in modern-day Nairobi.

Refrences

Teckla, Muhoro, et al. “Reflections on Architectural Morphology in Nairobi, Kenya: Implications for Conservation of the Built Heritage.” Conservation of Natural and Cultural Heritage in Kenya: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach, edited by Mugwima Njuguna and Anne-Marie Deisser, 1st ed., UCL Press, London, 2016, pp. 75–92. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1gxxpc6.12. Accessed 15 Mar. 2021.

Owuor S, Mbatia T. POST INDEPENDENCE DEVELOPMENT OF NAIROBI CITY, KENYA Pre-colonial patterns of urbanity and rurality and the European colonial legacy 3. Urban Geology of Nairobi. 2008;1(1):22-23. http://erepository.uonbi.ac.ke/bitstream/handle/11295/38925/2008_dakar_workshop.pdf?sequence=1

Brace yourselves for the new Nairobi

Yes, literary guys brace yourselves for new looks and operations of the Nairobi CBD in the coming year. I was having this conversation with a certain driver and he bluntly asked me if ill manage next year in Nairobi with the type of shoes I was wearing that day. Being the curious person that I am I went on and asked him a few questions and also researched more about it. And if you are curious why we will be needing more of our sneakers just like me, allow me to serve you with the tea.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the ongoing developments going rounds in the CBD. NMS has been carrying out numerous projects to change the landscape and design of Nairobi with the refurbishment of different roads within the city Centre. NMS has been collaborating with the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) to decongest the CBD by constructing multiple bus stations on the outskirts.

A tweet from Jean wangari concerning the pedestrian walkways in Nairobi CBD.The pedestrian walkways in Nairobi CBD

The project is part of the expected introduction of Mass Rapid Transport corridors to address persistent congestion in the capital city, including the already launched commuter rail services, non-motorized transport, and BRT corridors. NAMATA published the 12 mobility corridors connecting Ngong town, Kenol, Ruai, JKIA, Limuru, Muranga, Kiambu, and Konza city. Also, they’ll be the installation of electronic systems, which will be used to control operations of the terminus.

The Nairobi Metropolitan Services announces that Matatus will shift from Central Business District in phases, as the first bus terminal is expected to be finished by January.

The Routes Includes:

  • At the junction of Bunyala and Workshop Road, the new terminal which is still under construction, PSVs from Mombasa Road (South B, South C, Industrial Area, Imara Daima, Athi River, Kitengela, Machakos) will terminate.
  • From Waiyaki Way, Uhuru Highway, Kipande, and Limuru roads, the Fig Tree terminus at Ngara will be used to serve matatus from that route.
  • Ngong and Lang’ata road PSVs (Kawangware, Kikuyu, Kibera, Lang’ata, Rongai, Kiserian) will end at Green Park, commonly referred to as the Railways Club, whose terminal is almost complete.
  • The new Desai- Park Road terminal will serve the PSVs from Mt Kenya and those who come by the Thika Superhighway.
  • It is expected that the Muthurwa terminal will stay in use as PSVs from Jogoo and Lusaka Road.

What does this mean for us?

The congestion in Nairobi CBD is mostly brought by the PSVs originating from the city center. The current system makes it more costly and time-consuming for cross-town trips. Locating the bus station outskirts means less congestion and also less traffic. The project will boost connectivity and promote the use of non-polluting modes, more footpaths, special cycle dedicated routes.

The proposed ban on matatu would increase the average walking time for passengers which is due to the transfers of terminals. The increased walking time for passengers with children, people with disabilities, and baggage transporters would be especially difficult. (hence the driver commenting on my shoes.)

Media reports have described the possibilities of buses to ferry passengers from one terminal to another – however such services would result in longer transfers waiting time and extra costs, including passengers inconvenience.

Mobility is a major challenge in Nairobi, Over the years, many unsuccessful attempts have been made to limit access to public transport in the town center. According to statistics, Just a few passengers in Nairobi drive by car, as opposed to the rest who use public transportation, yet the focus is always on public transportation.

The city could also apply steps to prevent the use of private cars. Based on demand, parking rates could be set, providing an incentive for car users to avoid city areas that face the most congestion. Enhanced parking management will also raise funds that could be invested in a public transport system that is open, efficient, and fair.

We have lots of questions concerning this project i.e. will the system be affordable? but we’ll just have to wait till it is implemented, then we will find the answers. I’d love to know what your thoughts and questions are concerning the changes.

And Happy holidays to you🎄. We hope that the new year brings us more happiness, creativity, and a better human condition in our urban areas. We appreciate the constant support you guys have been showing us by subscribing and sharing the content.

Merry Christmas post

See Yah Next Year!


We need to Humanise Cities.

My introductions have always started with life insights or me recommending a nice book or a Tv show, (I assume you’ve noticed that by now), but today’s different. I remember commenting somewhere that I didn’t want this to be a rant blog, but our city’s situation is wanting!

I’m writing this with lots of emotions coz of the heartbreaking accident of a cyclist that happened on Thika Road, Nairobi. (may his soul rest in peace) I was so touched by the numbers that came out on the cyclist lives matter protest that happened on Saturday. That clearly showed how unsafe our roads are for the non-motorists in the Nairobi


I often imagine cycling (as an alternative to beat the traffic) but only the thought of it, is scary, from my safety, the routes to take, and where to park my bicycle. The city itself is discouraging the few that are reasonable enough to take responsibility on their own hands to reduce air pollution and at least decongest the city. I agree we all are responsible for how our cities turn out to be. But how can we even afford to take responsibility if the city itself isn’t built for us? Today’s post is a call for creating more human spaces in cities and towns.

Being a non-motorist in Kenya is clearly a death sentence. That’s the main reason why the majority of the population insists on driving themselves around the city. This continues to increase the number of cars on roads thus congestion and air pollution.

A program was recently done by Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS) which involved the conversion of spaces into pedestrian walkways and cycling lanes, to make it easy for residents to walk and cycle from home to work in the CBD. Instead, motorists are already parking along the walkways, inconveniencing pedestrians as well as cyclists. This article highlights the shocking numbers of pedestrians and cyclists that die in road accidents in Kenya.https://insuranceguru.co.ke/road-accidents-in-kenya/

The term humanising the city means humans become the dominant priority in the organisation of the cities’ spaces. (cities serving the people who live in them). This is important since the citizens are the city, if the citizens are not feeling comfortable then, the city certainly is not human-centered. There needs to be a shift in the way cities are developed, cities should be developed with the intent to create better places for humans to inhabit. Urban designers and planners should consider the following strategies to Humanise space in cities and towns;-

  • Have visions and goals towards human-centered cities.
  • Have approaches that recognize problems that city dwellers face yet it also providers economic incentives.
  • Have engagement platforms to get to know what the citizens want.

Human-centered design will have a huge impact on the sense and vibrancy of the city, its advantages include:

  • Create a better place for humans to live.
  • Will make cities and human settlements more inclusive, resilient, safer, and more sustainable.
  • It will empower citizens to make more informed decisions.
  • Attracts density of people to use the NMT.

We’d love to see less car-centric streets and more pedestrians oriented.

Get in touch!

How cities affects our mental health.

I love self- development books, the how-tos and the secret to kind of books, or scientifically proven ways on how to accomplish a certain task books. Just like the one I mentioned in my previous post.

Don’t get me wrong I also love me some good stories, first the logic-oriented books or the ones that introduce you to so many new concepts that make you change the way you think about certain things. I discovered another mind opener book called The courage to be disliked by Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga. The book has so many pieces of wisdom that not only had me rethink my life perspective but also allowed me to put new truths into action. Let me just mentions bits that broadened my thinking:

  • Trauma doesn’t exist, people just choose that kind of life. (yeah right, I was surprised too, sounds victim blaming but he explains his perspective)
  • If we are upset about something its coz of the story, we are telling ourselves about that particular thing.
  • We choose to be unhappy and we are using that particular circumstance to justify that. (happiness is a choice)
  • You are the only one who’s worried about how you look. (people are busy worrying about themselves, what makes you think that they are actively thinking about you?🤡)
  • Choose the best path that you believe in, what kind of judgment that other people pass on that choice, that’s the task of other people and that’s a matter you can’t do anything about it.
  • We should not compliment or insults anyone but only give affirmations.

I think that’s enough to get you reading the book. Just don’t overthink it, and question everything including people that suffer from mental health problems. I don’t know a lot about mental health but what I know is, some mental health problems are a result of both genetic and environmental factors. Read the book with an open mind and take away the good ideas.

Speaking of mental health. How are you feeling today? How’s your mental health? September is National Suicide Prevention Month, I thought I would write about how urban life affects our mental health. The questions of urban living and mental health is a complex issue that’s related to many other interrelated factors. Urban life exerts a huge impact on our wellbeing including mental health. The impacts can either be positive or negative.

Studies show that urban dwellers have a 20% higher risk of developing anxiety disorders and a 40% risk of developing mood disorders. Urban stressors include air and noise pollution, lack of enough greenery, traffic congestion, etc. These challenges are brought by the rapid pace that our cities and towns are growing. (Effects of urbanisation) Social stress is the main factor that causes mental disorders in urban areas. Like living in crowded areas will bring you stress.

The key to improving our wellbeing in urban areas is by making the city more livable and concentrating the city design on Sensory Landscape. By sensory landscape I mean the smelling, hearing, seeing, touching, and even tasting of the city. we often interpret the city through the technical rather than the sensory, yet it is the sensory from which we build feeling and emotion and through which our psychological landscapes are built.

Just differentiate the feeling you have when you walk on Moi Avenue street and the one that’s on Aga khan Walk on a sunny day. Lots of study shows how our interactions with nature improve our state of mind because people tend to be more active in nature and sights sounds and smell of the greenery boosts our mood.

Aga khan walk.Nairobi.

The physical nature of cities also puts a strain on the emotional wellbeing of their inhabitants. When planning new neighbourhoods and refurbishing existing ones we should put in mind phycological health. What if our city planners and designers start their plan with words like beauty, love, happiness, or excitement as opposed to spatial outcomes or ‘planning framework? We need to understand people’s emotions. A lot of us are talking about sustainable development forgetting that cities need to be psychologically and emotionally sustaining. If we are talking about sustainability let it be sustained across a range.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinion on this. Get in Touch!

Edited by Noor