Last Saturday Rwamagana became the latest administration to ban bicycle taxi operations, commonly known as boda boda, from town. Kigali City, Nyagatare, Muhanga(Gitarama), Karongi (Kibuye) and Huye (Butare) are the other urban areas where this cheap mode of transport is outlawed.
In Musanze (Ruhengeri), Rubavu (Gisenyi), Gicumbi (Byumba), Ngoma (Kibungo) and Rusizi (Cyangugu), riders, who are mainly youth, are still allowed even on the tarmac, in town centres.
In Rwamagana they have been asked by police not to ride within 50 metres of the tarmac, citing the need to minimise accidents as the main reason behind the move.
Police went ahead to reveal that out of 77 accidents in Rwamagana Town last year, 27, or 35 percent of them involved cyclists. It also stated that out of 16 victims of fatal accidents again last year, nine of them, or 56 percent were bicycle riders.
On this basis alone the ban accumulates sufficient justification when it is considered that saving lives is the motive.
Yet these bicycles which have been a looming dander on the owners’ lives have also been a source of livelihood. Banning them from operating in town and its vicinity where their business is most lively can cut their income by over 50 percent or more, thereby having far reaching implications on individual and family welfare.
Worse still the ramifications of the ban become more apparent when it is imposed on short notice. Threatening to steal to make up for the revenue lost as one affected person did is to court disaster on his part. But for the authorities not to be sensitive enough to the plight of these poor people after they have lost a significant part of their income is to create a problem by solving another.
A police officer rightly advised the youth to come together in associations so as to be able to access bank loans. With the bank money they could obtain motorcycles for use to earn even more money than with the bicycles.
However, this very sound advice ought to have come much before the ban as a way of preparing them for the impending change in their business lives. For example a notice of six months, accompanied by small scale entrepreneurship sessions during the same period could make a difference.
There is no denying the good intentions of the ban, like there should be no indifference about its negative effects. Rescinding the ban in Rwamagana is not what we are calling for.
But we think other town administrations with the aim of following suit might want to consider ways of delivering the ban in a less destabilising manner.