Growth of the Motor Cycle Industry and its Nexus to an Inclusive and Green Transport System

Growth of the Motor Cycle Industry and its Nexus to an Inclusive and Green Transport System

Public transport systems in African countries are inadequate and less developed, making motor cycle taxis, commonly referred to as Boda Bodas, a key mode of transport in urban and rural areas. Motor cycles are a response to mobility and accessibility needs owing to growing travel demand that outstrips existing transport infrastructure and services.

Many countries have attempted to fill the mobility and accessibility gap through different means. For example, Light Rail Transit (LRT) in Manila was introduced in 1984 and expanded to four lines. Morocco introduced LRT in December 2012 and Ethiopia in September 2015. Those resorting to Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) include: Curitiba BRT in Brazil introduced in 1974; TransMilenio BRT of Colombia introduced in 2000; Trans-Jakarta Bus Rapid Transit system in Jakarta set up in 2004 and currently with 12 lines and the largest in the world; Rea Vaya BRT of South Africa introduced in August 2009; and Tanzania BRT introduced in February 2017. China has prioritized bicycles with mandatory reconversion of motor cycle lanes into bicycle lanes in 2015 while Vietnam adopted motor cycles in the mid-1980s and, as at 2015, had 5 million registered motor cycle users for a population of 7 million in the capital city. In Africa, South Africa, Nigeria and Tanzania are the leading motor cycle markets, followed by Kenya, Algeria, and Uganda which introduced motor cycles in 1995, and Egypt.

Motor cycle taxi use in Kenya has witnessed significant growth in the last 15 years with new registration of motor cycles rising sharply after 2007 to a peak of 140,215 in 2011. This has seen the share of motor cycle registration to total motor vehicles rise from 20 per cent in 2007 to 68 per cent in 2011 and 58 per cent in 2016. Although most motor cycles are found in urban areas, information about their regional distribution is scant.

Growth of the motor cycle industry has presented significant opportunities in meeting mobility and accessibility needs of hitherto underserved road users and regions. They provide affordable door-to-door transport capability, unmatched navigability in congested and poor road conditions, provide ease of parking, and have capacity for passengers and luggage. It also provides economic and social benefits such as employment and business to riders, manufacturers and service providers. About 21 motor cycle assembly plants in Kenya released 100,000 motor cycles into the domestic market as at 2016, creating 500,000 direct jobs and supporting 4 million Kenyans indirectly. The industry is estimated to generate Ksh 384.54 million in income daily, and over Ksh 2,155 million to the exchequer.

Growth in the sector has been supported partly by government incentives in form of tax reforms. Motor cycles below 250cc were exempted from 16 per cent value added tax by the government in 2007 but in August 2015 excise tax of Ksh 10,000 per unit was imposed on motor cycles. This was blamed for the sharp drop in sales and risking job losses for the many youth who benefit from the motor cycle taxi business. In September 2016, the tax was removed through the Finance Act 2016 – a move that was meant to encourage massive growth of the manufacturing sector especially through local assembly. As expected, and in line with the objective of the removal of the tax, sales of motor cycles rose substantially – estimated at more than 160 per cent by May 2017.

Motor cycles, like other means of transport in Kenya, are required to comply with the transport regulations. The National Transport and Safety Authority Act No. 33 of 2012 and the National Transport and Safety Authority (operation of motor cycles) Regulations 2015 that came into force in January 2016 outline the rules and code of conduct of motor cycles while on the road. The regulations require a motor cycle to have two helmets and two reflective jackets; the rider to have a valid driving license and carry only one passenger (except in the case of children less than 13 years and the disabled); not carry loads and passengers at the same time; observe traffic rights and all traffic rules; and motor cycle taxis riders to be members of a body corporate which shall have a minimum of one hundred motor cycle taxis. The intention is to streamline and formalize operations of the sector.

However, there is significant level of non-compliance with the Traffic Act, regulations and highway code. This is partly due to lack of awareness on road use. Currently, there is no road use training by a competent authority before motor cycle riders can carry passengers. Thus, motor cycle riders are not aware of the risks they are exposed to on the roads for themselves and for their passengers. While most riders do not have licenses, others do not wear reflector jackets or helmets.

Road safety statistics provide the manifest of risks motor cycle users face due to non-compliance with laws and regulations. A study by World Health Organization (WHO) on motor cycle road traffic crashes in 2015 showed that 36 per cent of the patients in emergency department of hospitals in Kenya were victims of traffic crashes involving motor cycles – 75 per cent of whom were not wearing helmets at the time of the accident. There are high numbers of road crashes especially in rural and far flung areas which are not reported to police and cannot be accounted for, hence official statistics underestimate these figures.

Motor cycles account for 7.9 per cent of all road crashes, ranking fifth highest as at 2016 after motor cars, lorries and buses and taxis, and matatus. This is as compared to about 3 per cent of all road crashes in the period 2000-2007. Despite the comparatively lower number of crashes associated with motor cycles, the fatalities related to motor cyclists rank second after pedestrians, indicating the severity of motor cycle-related crashes.

Besides the challenges of road safety, emissions and the climate impact of a growing motor cycle industry are emerging concerns in the transport sector. Motor cycle engines generally emit less carbon dioxide (CO2) but large amounts of nitrogen oxides. Further, low quality fuel to operate motor cycles is a serious pollutant especially in densely populated areas. While natural gas is a mainstream alternative fuel that burns more efficiently, the lower heat content and burning velocity of natural gas reduces engine maximum power by about 15 per cent at high engine speed without any modification to the original engine. Emissions are also linked to lack of routine maintenance.

The growth of the motor cycle industry has also given rise to social and security challenges. Rising insecurity and vices have been linked to increased motor cycle use. For example, between June and July 2016, it was estimated that motor cycle crimes accounted for 13 per cent of all armed robberies and theft incidents recorded by courier firms. Boda Boda riders also resort to burning vehicles when they are involved in an accident, taking the law into their hands even when they are at fault. On the social front, anecdotal evidence reveals a growing number of youth who drop out of school to join the motor cycle taxi business in urban and rural areas without appropriate training.

Lessons from Kigali, Rwanda

There are lessons that can be learned from Kigali following the new road-safety programme introduced in 2001, and financed by the World Bank. There was complete revision of the country’s laws on road conduct with wide stakeholder involvement including unions and schools. In 2003, a public awareness campaign was conducted and further penalties for failure to wear helmets on motor cycles introduced. Every motor cycle must belong to a cooperative to operate legally. Riders have a sticker displaying plate number, cooperative name, and engine number and must answer to the cooperative’s disciplinary team in case of any safety breaches. To maintain a close working relationship, the mayor chairs a monthly steering committee where the city can discuss any issues directly with public transport operators. The private sector also collects safety information about riders from customers and connects the best drivers to bad drivers to improve safety ratings and reduce accidents.

In Kenya, motor cycle taxi riders have also demonstrated cases of self-regulation and quasi formalization through establishment of self-help-groups, SACCOs and associations. The intention of these structures is to formalize and streamline activities of the sector. These structures have not only enhanced discipline and compliance of riders with regulations, but have helped members to save, invest and transform their lives. There is, however, need to have a limit on the number of cooperatives motor cycle taxi riders can join. This will provide an effective platform to monitor the activities of the riders.

The SACCOs and associations can also serve as the medium through which motor cycle riders receive training on driving, road use, the highway code, safety and security. Although driving licenses are issued after passing a driving test, there is a wide gap in enforcing this policy, leading to a huge fraction of unqualified drivers that pose a risk to themselves, other road users and those they support. Most motor cycle riders in remote areas do not have driving licenses since traffic checks in those zones are rare. A study by Jones, Tefe, Zephaniah, Tedla, Appiah-Opoku and Walsh conducted in 38 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa including Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Ghana in 2016 established that insufficient inspection, regulation and enforcement of safe public transport vehicles results from lack of resources and geographic coverage in remote areas on the part of authorities. This can be enhanced by support of county and sub-county units in charge of the mentioned activities.

In making motor cycle services an efficient, safe and effective mode of transport in urban and rural areas of Kenya, several areas need to be addressed.

First, it is necessary to invest in infrastructure to reduce conflict between motor cycle riders and other road users including pedestrians. While parking zones for motor cycles may be created elsewhere, additional and separate lanes may be created on existing roads applying ‘share the road’ principles and inclusive design. Although such facilities may be available on some roads in the country, most roads especially those in and outbound of major towns do not have such provisions. Provision of such facilities tends to reduce conflict between motor cycle users and other road users, reduce accidents and create order on the roads.

To tackle crime associated with this mode of transport, it is necessary to devise modern methods of crime detection and prevention. With the advent of ICT, it is possible to track the crime activities of the riders. In Nairobi, for example, most roads and buildings are fitted with 24-hour Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) surveillance cameras. The SACCOs can also keep a register of their members, where they operate from and history, which can provide additional security surveillance.

With a focus on inclusive and green transport, there is need to shift to clean energy transport modes such as electric motor cycles to achieve higher standards of human health and climate change mitigation through reduction in emissions. However, like all electric vehicles, electric motor cycles are more expensive compared to those that use fuel primarily due to the cost of the battery. With incremental improvements in battery technology, the price of electric bikes will become more and more cost competitive. Kenya, has made progress in this direction with the Energy Regulatory Commission and UNEP signing a small-scale funding agreement to enable the shift to electric two-wheeler and three-wheeler motor cycles. This will involve data gathering, awareness creation, fiscal incentives, standards and local manufacturing support. In addition, riders of high-emitting motor cycles should be facilitated to go for routine servicing and emission testing to monitor and control emissions.

Authors: By Felix Kiminyei and James Gachanja

Photo: Courtesy of KBC

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