50 KPH, speed and pedestrian safety

50 KPH, speed and pedestrian safety
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

According to the WHO, across the world, in 2010, 1.24 million people lost their lives due to road accidents. In Kenya, 3050 lost their lives on the road in the same year. Pedestrians bore the brunt of this (47% of deaths in Kenya).

This loss of life is grave and sad: the agony over loss of loved ones, loss of bread winners as well as the sometimes unquantified impact to the economy. Clearly it is in everyone’s best interest for this stat to come down (and fast).

The Government body tasked with road traffic oversight is the National Traffic and Safety Authority (NTSA) . This is their mandate:

The NTSA brings together under one roof the functions of Motor Vehicle Registration, Transport Licensing and Motor Vehicle Inspection, Road Safety, Driver Testing and some extent Traffic Law enhancement. The objective of forming the Authority was to harmonize the operations of the key road transport departments and help in effectively managing the road transport subsector and minimizing loss of lives through road traffic crashes.

The 50 kph rule


The last 4 weeks driving in Nairobi, when viewed from the lenses of  petrol heads who own powerful V8s and turbo engined cars must have been rather debilitating.

More seriously though, let’s first gets one thing out of the way: the 50 kph rule has always been there (a random search in the Hansard records on Google Books shows multiple references). It is just being implemented more ferociously, with the stated aim of reducing road accidents.

Only problem here is the law:

Traffic Signs

(Link to the entire section on Kenya Law)

I’m no lawyer, but the language looks pretty clear to me: first the signs then the enforcement. A public gazette doesn’t count, as that logically means that you’d be gazetting the boundaries where this rule applies for EACH town or city across the country, AND asking every driver to commit these to memory for recall when driving, on a potentially poorly maintained road. Not possible. Thus, I am looking forward to a seeing numerous new road signs across the country’s roads.

The  other aspect of bribing one’s way to get out of trouble is a separate topic that I wouldn’t want to delve into, but it suffices to say that this road safety campaign will not last very long if this culture remains a part of the country.

The illogical

These are questions that would be ideally answered by a detailed study by the NTSA (one of their mandates includes research). They are mostly linked to the major 4/6/8 lane highways and roads.

  • What is the definition of built up area used in this case? Kimathi Street vs Gitanga Road vs Jogoo Road vs Waiyaki Way: which is more ‘built up’? One could argue that 70% of the road from Nairobi to Naivasha is ‘built up’.
  • 80-110 kph before James Gichuru Rd on Waiyaki way towards town, 50 kph after. What’s changed apart from the ‘city limits’? What parameters were used in determining this?  Same argument with the other 4/6/8 lane roads in Nairobi (apart from Uhuru Highway, University Way, Enterprise, Lusaka Road and perhaps Jogoo Road).
  • Driving at over 50 kph before Junction on Ngong Road towards, but 50 Kph from Cabanas towards town on Mombasa Road. Different road conditions. Illogical I think. What parameters were considered in coming up with this? It would be a cop out using ‘city limits’ as the reason.
  • The irony that is the armed policemen ensuring that ‘suicidal pedestrians’ use the zebra crossing on Waiyaki Way near Brookside.

Pedestrian Safety

Pedestrians have been the last people considered when it comes to road design in Kenya yet form the bulk of road accident victims.

Even at 50 kph, it is very difficult and dangerous for a pedestrian to cross a 6 lane highway, particularly at peak hour. Bumps wouldn’t make sense as it slows down traffic leading to a whole different problem. Safe crossings for pedestrians should be a mandatory part of road design. It is safer and more efficient (traffic wise) to have pedestrian bridges. (Pedestrian safety while on these bridges is a separate discussion though).

Between Kangemi and Nyayo Stadium, there is ONE pedestrian bridge (near Aga Khan High School). It’s only now, after countless pedestrians have lost their lives, that pedestrian bridges are being built across Mombasa road. There was a time where there was not a single bridge after the Nyayo Stadium roundabout for kilometres on end. How many safe pedestrian crossings are present on inter city/town highways?


I completely forgot the tunnel under Uhuru Highway used a lot by  UoN students.  Still, 2 crossings only. #EpicFail.