Uganda’s motorbike taxis: a speedy way … to get yourself killed

Some 32 percent of the deaths on Ugandan roads take place on a motorbike or scooter. And yet, for locals and tourists alike, the country's No. 1 form of transport is the "boda boda", or motorbike taxi.

Boda boda are hugely popular in Uganda, with 60,000 operating in the capital alone. In 2001, the president chose to ride up to a pre-election ceremony on a boda boda.

The vehicles were originally used as taxis for people who wanted to cross the border with Kenya, which is how they got their name ("border border").

In 2009, 756 people were killed on motorbikes in Uganda and over 15,000 were injured. The Commissioner for Traffic and Road Safety blames six out of 10 road accidents on careless boda boda drivers.

In response to the startling statistics, the authorities launched an offensive against dangerous motorbike driving in February this year. Some 1,500 chauffeurs had their bikes confiscated in the first few days for lacking a permit. Despite the crackdown, reports of longstanding corruption in the police force could see many unlawful boda boda drivers continue to take passengers.


"I take boda boda often, but I don’t really have a choice”

Bakundana Ismail works in IT in the capital, Kampala.

Even though it costs more to take a boda boda than a taxi or bus, it's the quickest way of getting around town because of the heavy traffic.

The drivers take a lot of risks. Many of them don't have a license and don't follow the highway code. They drive the wrong way and ignore the lights.

I take a boda boda at least four times a week and I do get quite scared sometimes. But I don't really have a choice."

Neither this driver nor his passenger is wearing a helmet, despite a law that requires boda boda drivers to have two helmets (along with a "Passenger Service Vehicle" sticker, insurance and a reflective jacket, and which prohibits more than two people riding on the vehicle at one time). Photo posted on Flickr by Keith M Taylor 14 July 2010.

Chauffeurs wait for clients in areas reserved for boda boda. Photo posted on Flickr 9 Oct. 2009 by "alanjwhelan".

A personalised boda boda. Photo posted on Flickr, 11 July 2010 by "andienns".

Boda boda can also transport goods. Here, chickens. Photo posted on Flickr 11 Dec. 2008 by "gipukan". 

Waiting for clients in a boda boda rank. Photo posted on Flickr 11 Dec. 2008 by Kees Verhoeven

On the back of a boda boda

A tourist takes a trip on a boda boda. Video posted on YouTube 17 March 2007 by "oriendale".



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