Riding a Boda-Boda Motorcycle Taxi in Kampala is Like Playing Russian Roulette
Boda-Boda Motorcycles Taxis – the Good – the Bad – the Ugly Sides to using one
Boda Boda Motorcycle Taxis are an efficient mode of transportation used by Ugandans and Visitors to Uganda alike. Most Visitors do not know about Boda-Boda Motorcycles Taxis – the Good – the Bad – the Ugly Sides of using one. In some cases using one is like playing Russian Roulette with your Life.
If you are a Thrill Seeker that loves taking risks – the Boda – Boda Motorcycle Taxis are for you, and you are at home on the back of a Boda-Boda Bike Taxis darting through the Traffic gridlock that is so common in Kampala.
Boda-Boda Motorcycle Taxis provide transport, carry goods, ambulatory services, an income for thousands of young men and a few young women, there is, however, the good, bad and ugly side to using a Boda-Boa in Uganda.
In Uganda there are three main ways to get around if you do not have your own transport – Special Hires – that in the rest of the world would be called taxis – in most cases you have to skillfully negotiate for the right price, then there are what we call Taxis here which are Toyota Mini-Buses (Matatus) in various states of disrepair and once again you might have to negotiate a bit on the price with the conductor. Then for the thrill seeker, there is the quickest way to get around in Kampala – the motorcycle taxi – the Boda Boda. (Suggestion – BYOH – Bring your own Helmet).
The word Boda Boda – is an Uglish Term(Uganda English) taking the words Border to Border and twisting them a bit by saying Boda Boda. The term comes from the Busia border of Uganda some 50 years ago when innovative Ugandans provided a way by Bicycle Taxis for Bus Passengers who had to disembark on one side of the border and walk a long distance to the other. These Bicycle Taxi Operators would advertise their transport by shouting out Boda Boda and since those days the Boda Boda Taxi service has evolved in that the streets of Kampala are filled with literally thousands of them.
The Good Side to Boda-Boda Motorbike Taxis in Uganda:
Boda-Boda Motorcycle Taxis offer quick, efficient, reasonably priced transport and they get you to your hotel, home, or a place you need to visit when all other traffic is at a standstill. The provide other needed services such as transporting Children to and from Schools. They take people to hospital, there are even Boda-Boda Ambulances providing much-needed services of taking a person to the hospital or a clinic to deliver a Baby.
Boda-Boda – Motorcycle provide Ugandans, Visitors and Expats with delivery services that people in the West do not have or wish they did. The pay bills for you, they deliver food, charcoal, sodas, drinking water, propane gas, fuel for your generator. My Boda-Boda Driver – Frank Kakande even goes to the Bank and skhops for me.
My Boda-Boda Driver – Frank Kakande, even goes to bank, and the ATM machine for me. In the almost 10 years, he has not cheated me (unusual in a country where need and greed seem to be wedded together). He knows what Pizza I like and where to get it, the bread I prefer, the cheese, fruit, salad, broccoli, yellow eggs – I give a list and an hour later it is delivered to my kitchen.
One must also not forget that Boda-Boda Motor-Cycle Taxi Drivers have a job, an income, even when they do not own the motorcycle themselves, they eke out a living, pay for their Children’s school fees, provide food and rent in a country where jobs are hard to find.
Boda-Boda Motorcycles contribute positively to Commerce – Business, and the Economy – it has even been researched that some form of motorcycle-Taxis would work well in cities like Berlin, London, Rome, New York in the West where congestion rules the day.
All Part of the Good Side of Boda-Boda Motorbike Taxis.
The Bad Side to Boda-Boda Motorbike Taxis in Uganda:
Boda-Boda Motorcycles Taxis are not for the faint of heart, there are risks involved in riding one and at the same time there are thrills. Part of the Bad Side to Boda-Bodas is that Boda Boda Taxi Drivers operate outside every traffic rule set down in Uganda – they pass on any side of the road, when vehicular traffic comes to standstill in the infamous Kampala jams they continue on to their riders destination, like the pony express of old in the USA – nothing stops a Boda-Boda Motorcycle Taxi – they dart in and out of the smallest spaces, sidewalks become roads, the smallest distance between cars is
There are Ugandan Traffic Laws and some laws that specifically address the Boda Boda Motorcycles such as the helmet law- each driver, and passenger is supposed to wear one, rarely do you see any helmets – passenger complain that they might get lice, an infection etc.
When good laws are put on the books, Boda-Boda motorcycle Taxi Drivers have the political muscle to change it – there are reportedly 200,000 boda-boda drivers paying a monthly fee of 20,000 shillings (6USD) to the Kampala Capital City Authorities – plus many in power or put own a number of Boda Boda Taxis all meaning, that unless someone gets serious about the bad side of Boda-Boda Taxi Business will continue.
The Ugly Side to Boda-Boda Motorbike Taxis in Uganda:
The Number 1 reason for Emergency Room Admission in Uganda is not Malaria, is not Ebola, (Uganda is Ebola Free), is not some exotic disease, it is Boda-Boda motorcycle Taxi Accident. 40% of Trauma Cases at the National Mulago Referral Hospital are there because of Boda-Bodas. Thousands of Ugandans are killed and maimed as a result of them
Boda-Boda Drivers are not always driving, they are sitting on their bikes at strategic stages (for which they pay rent) and it has been reported that the use of Waragi (Ugandan Gin), Marijuana (Ganja) and Khat (Mira – Mairungi) which is an amphetamine are on the increase, add to that a lack of safe driving skills, unnecessary risk taking with passenger, improperly maintained motorbikes and the result is more accidents – part of the Ugly Side to Boda-Boda Motorcycle Taxis.
The ugliest side to this is the increase in Boda-Boda Criminals who often, mostly at night rob their passengers, even beat them leaving them for dead or in other cases killing them, something not unusual to read in local newspapers and even see on Stations like Bukedde TV News.
One realizes that Boda-Boda Motorcycle Taxis fulfill an important function – quick and efficient transportation, home delivery, however at what cost. The Road Carnage in Uganda caused by Boda-Bodas has to be reduced and well-intentioned people such as Boda-Boda Drivers themselves, politicians, those in the medical community are playing an active part in bringing about positive changes for all, especially Boda-Boda users.
Practical Advice for Visitors to Uganda about Boda-Boda Motorcycle Taxis:
If you want to enjoy Uganda, stay healthy, no hospital visit, forgo seeking the thrills of the Ugandan road (if you want a thrill, go White Water Rafting), stay off of Boda Boda Motorcycles – fast transport, yes, but also Uganda’s most dangerous.
Boda Boda Motorcycle Taxis are one of Uganda’s fastest ways of transportation …and also the fastest way to wind up in an Emergency Room at a hospital ending your African Dream Vacation.
If you have no other choice, find the safest driver who adheres to your wishes, and is concerned for your safety. You do not have to be like a Bull-Rider in American Rodeo Event, you want safe and sane Transport.
If you are concerned for your well-being – stay off a Boda-Boda and enjoy the Pearl of Africa – Go on a Safari that covers your stay from pickup at the airport to drop-off for the flight home…most likely no Emergency Room visit – you will miss out on the Boda-Boda Motorcycles Taxis – the Good – the Bad – the Ugly Side of them but go home safe and sound. At a store I saw a young westerner hobbling along on crutches – our eyes met – we greeted and I asked “Boda-Boda,” he nodded a yes. Spend more money getting around or more time- but stay safe in the Pearl of Africa. If you are visiting Uganda, it might be best, not to tell your mom about the dangers of Boda Bodas…
Boda-Boda Motorcycles – the Good – the Bad – the Ugly – you will see thousands of them in Uganda – Think about your well-being and safety.