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Fuel hike: Residents turn to bicycles for transportation

After many years of absence in the transport sector following the introduction of motorbikes and the matatu sector, bicycle bodaboda are back in Busia and Malaba town, with a bang coming as a relief to hundreds who need town service.

After the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) announced an increase in fuel prices, the matatu and bodaboda were quick to announce new changes on town service, doubling the prices for customers from Sh. 50 to Sh. 100 for town services.

With the hike in transport prices, many Busia residents are now opting to use bicycle bodaboda, which is charged between Kshs. 20 and 30 within Busia and Malaba town.

The move pushed the bodaboda leadership in Busia, under their Chairman Bonface Okumu, to call for an urgent meeting to deliberate on how they will service with competition from counterparts from the bicycle sector.

According to a quick market survey by KNA at Malaba and Busia town, bicycle bodaboda has risen by 65 per cent in the last three days, with many traders opting to use bicycle bodaboda as they are friendly and more economical for business.

Isaac Mpaka is one of the customers who has resorted completely to bicycle services, citing the high charges imposed on customers by motorists and Matatu for town service.

“Initially, I relied on motorbikes because they are faster, but they took advantage to double the fares, ignoring the plight of the customers, yet the majority crossed to Uganda to fuel their motorbikes,” said Mpaka.

The sentiment was echoed by Abdulai Hassan, a food vendor at the Malaba border, who added that he won’t allow motorists and matatu to overcharge them, yet they have an alternative means that is economical.

“We are all in business; we feel the pain of fuel prices, but let motorists not take advantage of double the fares, inflicting more pain on us traders,” said Hassan.

Thomas Mayende, a proud boda boda rider of 40 years without a single accident, narrates how the business is slowly coming back to life, urging residents to readjust according to the economy.

Their ability to pass slow-moving or stopped motor vehicles enables them to operate efficiently and competitively in congested networks. It is argued that bicycle taxis have a place in Kenyan urban transport systems, and their presence gives customers a choice of the means they want.

Busia Women Rep. Catherine Omanyo had challenged the government to consider reintroducing fuel subsidies to caution the transport sector, which has created employment to over 70 per cent of Busia residents.

“The Bodaboda sector employs the majority of the youths within our county; an increase in fuel prices will paralyse the sector, thus rendering the majority of the residents jobless,” said Hon. Omanyo.

Bicycle mechanics are experiencing a boom in the number of people seeking their services and spare parts as a result of new prices.

A shop in Malaba, Uganda, has recorded a significant increase in the number of people who want to buy bicycles.

Another unhealthy practice is cropping up at the Malaba border: the smuggling of fuel from Uganda on motorbikes, which is risky and unhealthy as the products are highly flammable.

By Absalom Namwalo

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