Everytime I put on my helmet before I leave the house, I smile. My helmet is yellow with black stripes, (or is it black with yellow stripes? I guess we’ll never know 🙂 ). I smile because I’ll save fare, and have money for gum. I love gum btw, the green P.K, although I want to upgrade to mentos, or another brand that doesn’t feel tasteless after a half hour. *tsk*
Anyway, because I work in Muthaiga, I use James Gichuru Road, speed down to Strathmore, branch off at Riverside Drive till Westlands roundabout. Straight on till Nakumatt Ukay, then I use some streets I still am not familiar with, and get to Limuru Rd, and from there its easing my way to the Mini Mart. Cycling is fun, I like the wind in my face, and passing people in traffic. Cycling is dangerous also, in a city like Nairobi, and I can’t speed down roads as fast as I’d like to. Too many drivers with anger managemnet issues and not enough space on the road to share.
I think cycling, (apart from giving me strong thigh muscles :)), has made me see that Nairobi is an amazing city. It’s over-populated yes, full of unsavoury characters and it floods whenever it rains, but it’s still an amazing city.
Before I got the bike, I used to think that Nairobi is just another normal city, another one of the 54 cities in Africa. You know, like how people in Windhoek would imagine Nairobi being. Windhoek is the capital of Namibia btw, and they speak English there as well, and Herero, (google Herero people btw, their culture will amaze you, like for real).
Anyway, like I said, I used to think Nairobi was average. Normal. Run-of-the-mill.Typical.
Until I got a bike.
I cycle to work quite a bit. I’d say everyday, but the erratic weather and the consequent fatigue means I’d be lying. For the few months that I have cycled, I’ve seen the ugly and beautiful side of Nairobi. I’ve seen roadkill, (I saw butterfly roadkill one day, how do you kill a butterfly with a car btw?), I’ve seen chics so pretty I almost cyclyed into a ditch, I’ve seen palatial homes, and I had to cycle real slow to not look like I was staring. Right next to splendour, I’ve seen shocking, shocking levels of poverty, where it was ten a.m on a weekday and school-age children were loading groundnuts to sell.
I’ve seen drunkards lying in ditches, (and I think they did more than see a few pretty chics in yoga pants), I’ve seen, (although I think noticed is the better word), people making an effort to keep fit by jogging. I’ve seen people packing up to go home from work, (it was 10 a.m and he was a newspaper vendor), and I’ve seen people setting up work, (it was 12 p.m-ish and he was setting up the jiko that would roast his maize cobs).
On the road I’ve given way to ambulances. I’ve had to get out of the way for some big wig whose siren was louder than the ambulances. (I also noticed that I didn’t have a choice). I’ve seen people squeezed on a motorcycle without helmets, (I should have prayed for them). I’ve seen people not wearing seatbelts in matatus. I’ve seen stranded motorists at night. I’ve seen people walking in insecure areas without a care in the world.
I still haven’t seen a single coin since I started cycling though, when I was little, I picked up coins all the times, currency notes even. *tsk*
I think cycling is great, and I think more people would get sold into the idea if we had proper bike lanes, and drivers weren’t so obnoxious. Also, I think it would help if people took care on the road, by respecting other road users,wearing helmets and protective gear and obeying traffic rules.
I’ll get a camera soon, and I’ll start sharing photos of how awesome I think Nairobi is. Who knows, someone else might like it and want to start wearing a helmet and saving money for mentos, and data plans to read about Namibia.