Commuter chronicle: Dear motorist.

Crossing a road in Kenya is an art you have to learn whichever way you find convenient. It could be by seeing other people get hurt or the very unfortunate option of getting hurt yourself. There’s the art and then a huge percentage of luck getting on the other end of the road especially if you are crossing a highway.

Pedestrians crossing (one of the highways in Nairobi) Mombasa road.

Pedestrians crossing (one of the highways in Nairobi) Mombasa road.

If you are from around here then you know our highways are a complete afterthought. We know. There wasn’t a lot of thought put into the pedestrian however much beautiful it looks for the motorists. We are not pointing fingered or blaming. Well, I am not.

I once worked at an office situated by a very busy highway with flyovers far and few. I saw a number of accidents happen during the time I was there. Each time worse than the other. One that broke my heart most was where a woman got hit. She fought for her life by the roadside with a little help from well wishers, waiting for an ambulance.

The ambulance arrived aeons later, she ended up losing her life. Yeah. So I watched from high up in the office block as she got transferred from the back of an ambulance to the back of a pickup to be ferried to a mortuary. As I got back to the desk, I thought to myself, that could have been anyone I know. There’s someone who was waiting for her somewhere but she never came. An interview, maybe a job, date or whatever really.

Since then, I started paying a whole lot of attention when crossing the road. My lesson being I would rather get late because I waited than if I ended up at a hospital or worse; a mortuary. I used to be the person that wouldn’t rush because the driver sees me cross. Mostly at Zebra crossings. Now I’d rather do the awkward walk run and be mad than injured.

So today as I waited to cross the busy highway, no flyovers or zebra-crossings in sight, a motorist stopped for people to cross. I didn’t because I was too close to the car that stopped and all the rest who were crossing were behind me. Of course I didn’t see them start to cross because I was looking the opposite direction calculating and waiting.

As I saw the other cars stop, I wanted to cross but I didn’t really know if this first guy had seen me. In hesitation I stood back, because I’D RATHER WAIT!!!!!! Kind fella turns an idiot and starts yelling at me, “wewe si upite!”

In my head I was thinking, “Why on earth are you forcing me to cross a road when I haven’t made the decision to do that myself? Just because I have sunglasses on doesn’t mean I’m blind. Can you see a cane?!!!”

Well. I shrugged asking him why he was yelling at me (as I crossed the road anyway). I didn’t expect an answer of course but really. Crossing the road is a personal decision. However that sounds like to you. Let people cross the road at their own pace and calculations.

So dear motorist, thanks for stopping but don’t yell or hoot  or yell. You’re going to disorient that person and make them make a rushed decision. In doing that, you’re not really helping because not all the motorists are thinking like you are. You could make someone get hit. We might look like sheep when we all wait for each other to cross together, but your perception of pedestrians should be the least of your concerns.

A motorist has a machine, the pedestrian is on foot. Motorists takes the upper hand here, especially because nobody bothers to follow traffic rules, so let’s both be sober. Bottom line, biggest lesson I learnt, is to never rush to cross the road at any point in time. Because there’s nothing more important on the other side of the road than arriving alive.

As a pedestrian, have you ever had a similar experience in this (sic) motorist, pedestrian “power-struggle”? What’s your lesson? Experience?

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