Reflections: Whither, affordable transport for the poor?

How they swiftly and effortlessly whiz through the monster vehicles that seem to have been made purposely to clog the clean but narrow roads of Kigali. Despite the comparatively sparse population of traffic at the moment, Kigali looks like it can only handle tiny roadsters.

How they swiftly and effortlessly whiz through the monster vehicles that seem to have been made purposely to clog the clean but narrow roads of Kigali. Despite the comparatively sparse population of traffic at the moment, Kigali looks like it can only handle tiny roadsters.

When you consider that it is the cherished dream of every ‘Kigalois(e)’ to own ‘wheels’, then you wonder if we are soon not going to be consigned to the hell-hole of one traffic snarl-up in the whole of Kigali. And that’s how they come in handy: the ubiquitous Kigali ‘motos’, I mean. ….

And while we are at it, who is this trying to assign to our ‘motorcycle taxis’ the repugnant moniker of ‘boda-bodas’?Everybody should know that we are all happy with ‘motos’ and that we reject the all-too-common habit of aping others.

Remera is Remera, for instance, and Gatsata is, too; no ‘Kikubo’ or ‘Kisimenti’ should import itself into Kigali. …. However, the motos. We all know the uncomfortable symbiosis that exists between the Kigalois(e) and the ‘motari’ (motorcycle taxi rider): the Kigalois (e) needs to quickly access that hilly destination as much the ‘motari’ needs to access those shiny 100-Frw coins that seem to be pasted to pockets with metal super-glue.

Both of them know that co-existing is inevitable, but always choose to make that unholy union burdensome. Of course, we all tend to side with the Kigalois(e) without making an effort to understand the motari: however faithfully he adheres to the stringent Rwanda traffic rules, the motari will not escape an accident here and there.

Which does not mean that we should sit complacently and bemoan our lot as already pre-determined. It has been told to us umpteen times that an apparent dead-end may provide the hither-to elusive opening that will deliver us unto better life.

In this case, we can get a way to transportation that is cheap, fast, easily manoeuvrable in heavy traffic, but safe. I don’t know about ‘manoeuvrable’, but Indians seem to have answered our prayer: the ‘Nano’ car!

The Nano car, manufactured by Tata Motors of India, will hit the auto shops this April, at a friendly price of Rwf 1.1 million. When you consider that a motorcycle is tagged at about Rwf 1.3 million, you’ll see that we need not re-invent the wheel.

Let us go the Nano way, knowing that even if a car may not be as easily manoeuvrable as a motorcycle, it has the advantage of giving all-weather comfort.

Moreover, whereas the motorcycles may have needed roads of their own to enhance their safety, the Nano is a car that will compete equally on road lanes and parking bays with fellow cars.

Before you celebrate, however, remember that the Indian Mr.Ratan N. Tata is not the first person to conceive the idea of a people’s car.

The first person was an unlikely German quantity, considering his dictatorial, anti-people credentials, who nonetheless wanted to empower his people in the manner of transportation.

The German quantity was Herr Adolf Hitler and he believed it was possible to develop an “Auto für Jedermann” (car for every man). And, indeed, it was possible even beyond Hitler’s expectations, but he never lived to realise his dream.

He got himself embroiled in an intractable Europe-conquering mission that saw to his demise. It was only after Germany had recovered from the Hitler menace in 1946 that a “Volks-Wagen” (peoples’ car) was finally rolled off the production line.

The price tag was rather higher than Hitler’s envisaged Rwf141,000 but it truly proved to be a people’s car. “Käfer” (the beetle) is no longer in production today, but that’s neither here nor there.

The important thing is that Volkswagen blazed the trail for many auto-makers with the introduction of ‘The Beetle’, to the benefit of the people.

I can immediately think of the American Ford Model T, the British Austin/Morris Mini, the French Citroën DS and many other small, light and compact car makes that followed suit.

Let these auto-manufacturers uphold the noble goal of making cars that are affordable to the poor majority. We appreciate our two-wheelers for their low price, their agility and speed but know the inherent danger in our being exposed to the accidents and the elements.

Contact: ingina2@yahoo.co.uk

 

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