Lagos tries to regulate chaotic moto-taxis

Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:25am EDT
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By Yinka Ibukun

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigeria's commercial hub Lagos is trying to bring order to hundreds of thousands of chaotic motorcycle taxis, banning them from major roads and from carrying pregnant women or riding on the pavement.

The bikes, known as "okadas," swarm like mosquitoes around sub-Saharan Africa's most populous city, swerving to avoid bribe-hungry traffic police, often mounting the kerb and frequently carrying entire families on their tired frames.

Some estimate there are as many as a million okadas in Lagos, ferrying everyone from commuters to schoolchildren around a city whose major roads are almost permanently gridlocked. Even heart-attack victims have been known to be ferried to hospital on the back of the bikes.

Public information leaflets produced with motorcycle riders' unions have been handed out listing new rules and pledging stricter enforcement of existing ones, including a ban on multiple passengers and on carrying school-aged children.

"No stereo or any other musical instrument should be fixed on the motorcycle," says one of the more eccentric regulations.

Pictures of five passengers on one bike and of a rider balancing four sacks of rice are marked with 'X's, while a set of traffic lights is marked with a big tick. Major roads where okadas will be banned from September 1 are also listed.

Many okadas buzzing around Lagos, a chaotic city of 14 million people, were given to unemployed youths as part of poverty reduction programs or on hire-purchase schemes run by businessmen. Few riders have been taught traffic rules.

"I feed myself and my family, train my children so that they won't be like me, that is all I am after," said Frederick Eshi Eshi, a 40-year-old okada rider. "I don't have much education so I came to do this work."   Continued...

<p>Drivers of motorcycle taxis wait for passengers on a sidewalk along the outer marina road in Lagos August 31, 2010. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye</p>