This is not the usual tech story but many people will agree that the transport system disorganization in Harare will make us all go mad at some point. So here goes.
On 22 February this year, I bought a scooter. I have been using it ever since. Well, not every day initially, but now it’s become my primary means of transport. It’s changed how I move around drastically and not a day passes without me thinking to myself; why the hell did I take so long to do this.
So I thought I’d share the reasons here so some of you reading this might consider buying a scooter sooner than you would have.
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- First, I think Zimbabwe will make huge savings if we use more scooters and less cars. The price of a brand new scooter is way less than the second hand Japanese cars we love so much. A new scooter on average costs $1,000. A decent low cost second had Japanese import car will cost an average $4,000 to land it in Harare!
- And it’s not just the price tag. The important costs to pay attention to, as all once naive owners of first cars will tell you, are the costs to keep the machine running: fuel, insurance, road license, parking, parts. All those are way lower on the scooter. An example; a very efficient 2,000 Toyota Corolla import does between 13 and 16 km on a litre of petrol. The scooter hits 37km! You don’t pay parking fees because the council just doesn’t mind scooters. Overnight, you can park it inside your house! Or chain it to a tree etc… Parts are cheaper and servicing is so simple you can do it yourself!
We need to do something about the traffic madness. I don’t think we have too many cars in Harare; we just have too many inconsiderate drivers and maybe too many of us ‘bought’ our drivers licenses. The traffic lights log jams were driving me crazy and I decided I had had enough of it. I didn’t want to be logged jammed. I didn’t want to be stuck shouting and being shouted at by fellow drivers.
- Less cop bribing. The traffic cops don’t give a hoot about scooters and you’ll almost always go past a roadblock without being stopped. More scooters on the road will have the cops paying more attention though, but let’s worry about that when it happens.
- The danger is not as bad as people imagine it. Scooters are not super bikes. The highest possible speed on mine is 70km/hr. I average 45km/hr and can come to a halt in just a second in those crazy moments when you drivers somehow can’t see a whole big red object and won’t give way you turn onto a road. And those moments can be many. Which brings me to;
- If we buy more scooters, our roads will become safer for riders in general. We’ll just become more visible; more expected to be sharing the road. Hopefully, the city managers will design the roads with riders in mind.
- If you use public transport for short distances commuting to work and back home (around 15km for example), you probably spend more a week on bus fare than a scooter rider does on fuel. Especially also considering a scooter rider has the time flexibility and other added conveniences.
On the danger again
I have fallen off the bike at least twice. The first time I made a U-turn on a wet slippery tarmac (read reckless riding). The second time, a driver just didn’t see me and drove right into my path; I squeezed on the emergency brakes on time but being a newbie, I lost balance. Only the scooter got scratched on both occasions. I came out unscathed and wiser.
Yes, it’s been said many times that Zimbabwe, unlike fellow emerging market countries, doesn’t have a bike culture. Bikes are considered a utility for package delivery workers, NGO field workers, security guards and new farmers. The other extreme is them being just a luxury for super bikers. The middle income urban person somehow doesn’t feel the need to use a bike. Either they are using the Kombi (which I should say is also quite dangerous) or they have their own car, sometimes carrying around 3 empty seats everywhere they go.
I think we should build a scooter culture! I’m keen to know your experiences. Ever considered getting one? Have one already?