I know that traffic in Nairobi has been diabolical for years, so much so that talking about it is about as ubiquitous as talking about the weather. We even compare & discuss our commute times and stories over coffee or drinks.
But lately I have been thinking (in the 3 hours a day I spend driving to work and back) that while a lot of our traffic woes do stem from poor road infrastructure, there are even more that have to do with our attitudes on the road.
We have completely lost our sense of community and our basic manners. It’s each vehicle for himself, all others be damned. We have become a bunch of bullies, pushing our way into non-existent gaps and spaces just to be the first one there. And I’ll admit, that in order to survive the daily struggle, I too have become somewhat of an aggressive driver! And you know, I actually don’t want to be a tarmac tyrant and I would love it if my time on the roads was less fraught with angst and aggression.
But how do we do it? How can we change? The fact is that jams and road manenos have become a part of our culture, part of our ‘normal’. Luckily, as Whoopi Goldberg said, “Normal is just a setting on a washing machine”, and we have the power to change that setting if we choose to.
I’m suggesting a slow revolution. A peaceful, very peaceful resolution. In fact, the only thing we have to change is ourselves. When it’s time to get on the road, it’s time to be mindful of how we behave and to consider our actions, checking them very simply to see if they will be of any greater good. So, squeezing into an intersection and blocking traffic from the other side will only hold everyone up, wait until there is an appropriate time. Remember that overlapping just causes accidents and snarl-ups, while rarely getting you anywhere faster. When two lanes converge into one, let one car from each lane go at a time and everyone will get their turn without causing insane congestion.
Simply it’s about searching for your kindness while in the car. Just make kind decisions, take kind actions and keep yourself on the kind high road. If some of us start it, perhaps we can have influence over others until we almost all do it. We can take it online and take it to policymakers and celebrities, to boda-boda and matatu drivers, to school buses and safari vehicles. Perhaps if we try, we can make this a slow revolution and we can positively change our city’s reputation. Even better, we can make Nairobi’s roads safer and better for everyone.
Are you prepared to try? Hit us up with your ideas, and let’s make this happen.