Who is thinking for the city?

The Fairway hotel roundabout in Nakasero is getting a facelift. It seems that the roundabout will be replaced by traffic lights.

Regular users of this area will surely be pleased because it is a traffic hotspot during peak hours in the mornings and evenings (between 5pm and 7pm). At all other times, the traffic flow is quite good.

In terms of beautification of the city, it makes sense to pay attention to this particular roundabout. It can be quite messy especially in the evenings when motorists are rushing to return home or heading to the many hangout places in Kololo and/or Kamwokya.

Interestingly, there are not that many commuter matatus or boda bodas that ply this route but clearly the ‘my car’ drivers do not need their help in choking up the road themselves. So, some push into the queues, others create tight lanes in the middle and the brave ones go up onto the pavements and kerbs.

Perhaps the traffic lights might bring back a sense of order and serenity as the two lanes on each side of Yusuf Lule road connect to Acacia and/or Sezibwa roads. Perhaps the Nakasero-Kololo high-end, posh feeling might return if order is re-established! Perhaps! KCCA has not overtly published plans for city roads or for traffic decongestion; so, it is difficult to work out why this particular roundabout, that does not seem to have a big problem, was chosen first. We also have no idea of what roundabout is in line for the next upgrade and so on.

So, we are left with just questions! The Mulago roundabout possibly serves a lot more traffic than Fairway’s; is it next in line? What about the Garden City roundabout, at the end of this road stretch, which had been working well until the introduction of Oasis mall, which houses Nakumatt, a few years ago? Both these roundabouts are messy most of the time and it is a gridlock when it rains.

However, these traffic challenges pale in comparison with the appalling congestion downtown: Kampala road and below. I like to describe the two sides as south of Kampala road and north of Kampala road.

And indeed they are miles apart! There is the human traffic to begin with; thousands are on the move all the time, coming in and out of shops, walking to various destinations or heading to or from taxi parks. Now throw in the aggressive boda bodas and people-carrier cyclists. Finally you have the cars, majority of which are matatu taxis!

I stopped pitying the very young primary-school-going kids that walk in the city; pity turned into admiration! Walking in Kampala, especially south of Kampala road, is now a skill.

The bodas are fast and many times ride up on the pavements. The taxis are equally aggressive and seem to queue right next to or behind each other, leaving no space for a pedestrian. Then there is the hooting – the in-thing right now is for bodas using loud horns (hoots) just like cars’ or even buses’! Yes, it is quite noisy down south!

And this rainy season has not helped! Many areas in the city (most of them down south) are prone to floods even when there is not a lot of rain. Social media is awash with pictures of flooded streets with cars and people stranded in different parts of the city.

I attended a function last week where a speaker, a great teacher, pointed out that action-oriented people stand out because of their seemingly immortal works and their deep commitment to the improvement of lives or welfare of the everyday person.

New Vision’s Robert Kabushenga was pointed out because of his Pakasa series that impart business skills to many and Jennifer Musisi for her works in the city.

The challenge for KCCA is mostly based on perception. Many elites and/or middle-class appreciate her works – probably north of Kampala road, where it is clean and orderly. Others firmly believe that KCCA is against the poor – probably south of Kampala road, where disorder reigns.

Well, if improvement works were to begin at the former Equatoria hotel junction and the Mapeera house/Antonio’s Grill junction; if flooding that hinders pedestrians going to Usafi car park ceases at the Clock Tower area; and if security is improved at Clock Tower, then positive perceptions may begin to develop. It helps that streetlights, recently repaired, are now working!


The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers


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