I am not an urban development expert but these are my thoughts after six months of enduring Lagos roads. Note the ‘possible’ as Nigeria is so unpredictable. Don’t be surprised if we wake up tomorrow and all traces of traffic have mysteriously disappeared for no apparent reason. This country freaks me out that way.
Lagosians have grown accustomed to this very disheartening fact: You spend more time on the road than at your destination. Imagine sitting through go-slow for at least three hours, enduring exhaust fumes and sweat just to get to school or work for 8am.
So far, the brilliant idea the government has come up with is to widen roads and build flyovers; but these take eternity to construct in a corrupt system. Moreover, they are not permanent solutions in the face of an incessant migrant flow into the commercial capital. Our government is not blessed with the gift of foresight to plan for future population growths.
In addition, new lanes do not combat bad driving and the use of distraught automobiles with inoperable footbrakes. It may come as a surprise to some Lagosians that bad vehicles and indifference to the Highway Code cause traffic. Think of chain reactions.
Nevertheless, good driving – though vital – still won’t be enough.
SO, COULD BETTER PUBLIC TRANSPORT RELIEVE OUR TRAFFIC WOES?
Aside from atrociously planned road networks, the main cause of go-slows is simply the number of cars on the road. Public transport is disorganised and uncomfortable and people escape it if they can afford to. Besides, Nigerians are ostentatious. We want to show off our wealth. In our culture, any respectable man must attain a job, a car and a wife – it has to be in this order.
Improved public transport would mean less cars on the road. Instead of thirty individuals driving thirty cars, they could all ride in one vehicle. In addition, people would be less worried about the frequent fuel scarcities as transport companies will always find petrol somehow. Although many Nigerians really don’t care, upgrading public transport would also reduce greenhouse emissions and make Lagos more tourist friendly.
Ok. I have to be honest with you now. I myself do not take public transport in Lagos because of the discomfort and confusion that surrounds it.
How could we make it more efficient and appealing?
1. YES, TO MORE BRT BUSES
Curtail danfo buses. These rugged and cramped contraptions are a source of traffic in their own right. Getting rid of these iconic Lagos fixtures would not be easy and may face sentimental opposition, but we have to stop living our lives on the road.
We need larger well-driven buses. It is always a relief to see those stress-free, gloriously air-conditioned BRT buses whizzing up and down Western Avenue; however, there aren’t enough of them to meet our population demands and they seem to be limited to the Mainland. Give us more of them.
So maybe taking a BRT bus is still not as fancy as owning your own car. How about economy and luxury BRT to cater for the country’s class system?
2. REINVENT OKADAS
Replace those rickety things with solid motorcycles and regulate them. Implement proper testing and licencing of uniformed drivers to make motorcycling safer.
3. ‘LAGOS’ MEANS ‘LAKES’
We are surrounded by so much water that we just use as a rubbish dumb. We tend to view this water as an inconvenience that needs to be bridged over; but it has so much potential. Boats are one the fastest ways of getting round Lagos. More services with first-rate vessels, bulletproof health and safety procedures, and well-trained staff would attract more people to water transport.
Imagine how much smoother Monday morning rush hour would be if one just hops on a ferry across Five Cowries Creek from the Lekki Peninsula to Ikoyi. We could even use those canals to transport goods and not as latrines.
4. MAKE WALKING ENJOYABLE
Invest in proper sidewalks so pedestrians don’t have to battle between gutters and the road. Put benches, shrubs and shades everywhere so people would be more willing to walk longer distances from bus stops to their destinations. Plus, this would attract tourists who just want to walk around and take pictures.
5. WHERE ON EARTH IS THE LIGHT RAIL? WHY IS IT TAKING SO LONG?
Well, the above questions say it all.
6. MORE PARKING SPACE PLEASE!
To anyone who needs a business idea: Build vertical parking spaces. Target the Island event centres which are notorious for thoughtlessness with regards to parking. When people don’t feel like driving, they could park their cars in these secure spaces and board a bus or boat.
All this is wishful thinking really. It requires investment and certain people are making way too much money from our inconveniences to allow Lagosians to live easier lives.