WHERE ARE THE SIDEWALKS IN NAIROBI ?


 

Chicken crossing the road

 

In Westlands they are putting up, probably, the most beautiful hotel to landscape Nairobi. Peeking from the outside the décor is a duplicate of what is seen on the covers of glossy European magazines. It is not yet finished, but already smells of elegance and has a “tutti frutti” star appeal.
The road leading to the entrance is paved, courtesy of the hotel, with light gray blocks. A little bit of sidewalks decorate each side of the entrance.

It is odd, but Nairobi, a capital, has a phobia about sidewalks. They are too narrow, uneven or non-existent.
Rhapta road, yes with an H between the R and the A, in Westlands has almost a dozen residential hotels and no real sidewalks on either side from beginning to end.
Pedestrian walking, for ease, at the edge of the road are like matadors curving bodies left or right in order to avoid cars zooming inches from them. Missing is a crowd, for each successful zoom, cheering ……… Oléééééé.
Crossing a road is a challenge; you have to play chicken run with speeding vehicles. Climbing the stairs of an overpass is a health risk for disabled, smokers and people suffering from acrophobia.

There is such a phobia about having sidewalks that in more affluent neighborhood they get rid of them altogether. I have been to a place called Kaputei Gardens in Kilileshwa. The gentry on the road reserve, in front of their plot, plant grass and trees and booby trap it with barb wire or metal posts, ensuring that soles of unknown pedestrian never vilifies the ground facing their great address. They even put up a fence on the main road to enforce the mental idea that “peasants are not welcome”.

I have seen sidewalks so narrow that walking on them make you feel like a funambulist balancing on a tightrope.
Some remind me to loose weight crossing path with another earthling. I usually suck up my stomach, make eye contact with a cheeky grin then with unknown eartlings rotate my steps in the purest tango style.

Paved sidewalks, except for rare find, are uneven in Nairobi. The dirt paths provide your feet with roller coaster emotions using ankles as shock absorbers.
Tripping on these terrain irregularities is not an exception but the rule. So don’t waste your time looking for what made you trip, move on!
On rainy days these sidewalks are like skate rinks with mud providing unpleasant gliding experiences. The familiar users take off their shoes to cross the small pools which magically appear.
Some sidewalk pools are like Russian roulette cocked with live wire. Cross it and you turn into an instant Christmas tree.

Sidewalks and roads in Nairobi are a representation of the arrogance the rich have over the poor. The elite do not understand why pedestrians, walking on “their” roads, are not giving way by using non-existent sidewalks.

Yuk! Gag me with a spoon.

Patrick-Bernard

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