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Cheap and dangerous
– by Wolf Dagmar
Ever since gaining popularity on Tanzanian roads, motorcycle taxis have offered relief to some and wreaked havoc to others. On the bright side, motorcycle taxis are a useful service, especially to poor people. They also provide its owners means to earn extra income and, by extension, employment to those hired to ride them. Most of the riders are young people without proper trade or craft, with difficulties to find any other job.
However, these young riders are often reckless drivers with little regard for road safety regulations, making them a nuisance to motorists and pedestrians alike. And they cause many accidents: According to statistics from Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute (MOI) in Dar es Salaam, most of the current patients at the institute are victims of accidents with motorcycle taxis. On daily average, the institute gets 11 new cases of motorcycle accident patients. According to Jumaa Almasi, a PR manager with MOI, many victims of motorcycle accidents suffer from severe back and head injuries, “because they don’t wear helmets, and those who do, wear light ones.”
Traffic-police commander Mohammed Mpinga says that road accidents in Tanzania are not increasing, but becoming deadlier, with motorcycle taxis taking the most of the blame. Consequently, there have been appeals to the Tanzanian government to ban them altogether.
Adam Issa is a motorcycle taxi rider. “I make enough money to support my family,” says Adam. Otherwise, he says, he wouldn't know how to feed his children. He admits that some motorcycle taxi riders are reckless. But banning them would spell disaster to “me and all drivers, because our livelihood depends on the motorcycles.”
Motorcycle taxi riders have also been accused of complicity in incidents of armed robbery. Robbers, it seems, find them useful as getaway vehicles to beat traffic jams and escape the police. But the young motorcycle taxi drivers face other dangers as well: They work late into the night, and they are frequently attacked and robbed of their daily earnings.
In any case, clients continue to rely on them. Peter Kajoka takes motorcycle taxis regularly. “I cannot afford taxi cabs,” he maintains, “and motorcycles take me quickly around town.”
Kilasa Mtambalike is journalist and works for the Tanzania Standard.