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Why more people should use scooters in Harare

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.

  • 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!
  • Not all roses. Sometimes it rains... heavily!
    Not all roses. Sometimes it rains. Heavily!

    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.

Culture
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?


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29 thoughts on “Why more people should use scooters in Harare

    1. They just need control. Rwanda has managed that. In Uganda its more political than anything. I use a boda/moto/bike almost everyday and am seriously considering getting and using one when i am back home full-time. I agree with the article totally.

    1. You made my day ha ha – l agree with riding but l found this so funny the way you put has me rolling around on the floor ha ha!

      1. On another note, how often does it rain in Zim? Lets say in a good year Oct/Nov to April, at least the other half or so of the year is dry.

        Here it rains every month! Even in winter but that does not put people off from using their m/bikes and scooters.

        Well they have these ponchos which cover everything, others have this specialised umbrellas which cover the whole bike and passenger.

        Then again you can just use a simple two piece rain suit and problems solved. l just hope steering, visibiility, grip and handling can be so easily solved!

    1. usa teta mvura kudaro, kuti wageza nhasi iwe? anyways, unogona kushandisa rickshaw/tuk tuk since usinga fariri bhavhu

  1. im not so sure about this. i ride a bike… and i know you can get bullied on the road with a small bike or scooter…and its very easy to get yourself involved in a serious accident (regardless of speed). when some moron wants to cut infront of you with his benz.. he’s going to do it regardless of your safety. as a rider..it is YOUR responsibility to avoid that danger.. and to learn how to deal with those kind of situations. why do i say its your responsibility? well… car VS bike.. you work it out.

    as you mentioned… learning how to brake is something that is very basic and very serious! in your case, you just fell off.. but sometimes.. it could be the difference between getting run over..and staying in one piece. with kombis around, and traffic lights that dont always work.. you really have to be on the ball. wet tarmac, sand, gravel, mud.. these can all be danger zones for a biker.

    i firmly believe that people who want to take up riding need to have some sort of formal rider safety training beforehand. like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation in the US. in Zim no one really takes this seriously… though in Harare, the local bike club “Survivors” offer ride clinics at Donnybrooke every now and then as a community service. they teach people correct techniques of bike control etc. and the benefits of this basic training are invaluable.

  2. ummm kana mudhara – panemface akaita minor accident recently aripa bike akakuwana muviri wese save for the head – he had a proper old-school crash helmet. urimumota – u are safer.

    1. When it comes to accidents not exactly the case at times. Even mumota or netsoka chaidzo unogona kukuyiwa kuita mince meat chaiyo imwe nyama ichidambuka ichiwira kumwe uko

  3. The cost is great but I think the problem for some people is that they consider riding a scooter to be beneath them.

  4. I’ve definitely thought of one and believe it also works as a secondary means of transport and not necessarily the primary. I spend 10 bucks on fuel per day and in most cases, I’m just hoping short distances within town. If I could drive from home then use a bike during the day, I think that would be less stress. I’m going for it :)… A sport though

    1. those short in-town distances especially, the scooter is great for. Also, nothing’s as frustrating as thinking you’ll just drive out & be back in 15 minutes, then find yourself stuck in a traffic lights logjam an hour later

  5. i just prefer a true super bike, scooters generally are slow. what happens when you need to go out of town to Bulawayo lets say, at 70 ks an hour thats a joke!

    1. – Price of super bike is way more. 15k around?
      – Maintenance is high: fuel, parts, services etc…
      – I think danger to life is higher coz of temptation to go at top speed

  6. Not the usual tech story but a refreshing tech story all the same. a nice break from Mobile Network/phones related stories. For $1000 & low overheads that a pretty decent return. Certainly worth a punt

  7. I couldn’t agree more. Been riding scooters for the past few years in the states and they are a convenient, cost effective, and FUN means of transportation. And scooters can be fast too … I have a pair of 500 cc scooters in the US and they’re both capable of 150kmh while still getting 25kpl.

    Also, riding makes you more aware of everything around you and more conscious of the fact that mistakes, falling asleep at the wheel, and bad drivers can result in serious injury or worse. I firmly believe that everyone should be required to ride a bike for a year before they’re allowed to drive a car … you’d have a lot more good drivers on the road.

    Thinking about getting a scooter while here in Zim … and getting to ride with fellow geeks would be a bonus. Count me in if you start a scooter club!

      1. It’s a great way to interact with other like minded people. Share a good ride, maybe a bit of friendly hacking or Q&A sessions.

  8. Scooter is a great means of transport…but not for me! I however think we should address the REAL problem in Harare. Here r some proposals.
    1. Creation of “park n rides” for example you park your car somewhere in Arcadia and yu ride a bus into town
    2. Dedicated traffic controllers (not cops) from 7am – 6pm. In SA they have Outsurance/702 guys. This can be aided by use of cameras monitoring traffic at certain “troublesome” intersections and remotely managed traffic lights.
    3. More traffic free streets like 1st street.

    1. Interesting concept. Where l am we have a variation of the theme. Here it is a bike. In the whole city think of something like HRE for instance if not bigger. You have what are terminals .There are bikes here which have some sort of servo or electrical system, not to sure but this bike has no chain!

      Anyway at this terminal when you park the bike it is locked into place. When you want to take it or another you have to use a card. Think of it like a recharge card for meals say in a uni cafeteria, which you need to top up evey so often.

      anyway when you use the bike when you get to your destination you just leave the bike at the terminal and it is locked there for the next person to use.

      Sadly l do not have specifics about cost etc as when l enquired the price given to me was too high. But l think it is worth a short. The other thing is this city has very good bike tracks, may be too good as some motorists use them to run away from traffic, but at least they are trying!

  9. Hey how much are these things and where can you pick them up?

    on another note, what about licences do you need one?

    Lastly who makes them and what is the service like, hopefully they do not originate from a certain Asian state, but if its from its much smaller neighbour, l am all for it.

    Having lived in that state, l can say they are handy and practical. l had one with a rechargeable battery which was good till the battery died. Sadly this thing broke down a lot could be cos mine was a hand me down. Thankfully here they are easy to fix, but its a bit inconvenient like when you are rushing to work school and discover its dead.

    But with the traffic chaos here, they make a lot of sense, l was getting to town much faster on them than people in cars though the journey is about 30 km. Which poses a problem. if you are liberal with the throttle, you will get there and will definitely not make it home. The stated range is 50km, but l believe it varies with how enthusiastically you use the throttle.

    Anyway due to this ‘range anxiety’ the very heavy batteries 14kgs, the high theft of motor bike or batteries and the inconvenience of asking your friend or workplace to ‘charge’ your batteries for 8 or so hours deterred me from using them regularly.

    l then opted for a good old fashioned bike, faster most times than cars when there is a traffic jam, only problem is here you do not buy a nice bike or the fellows will ‘liberate’ you from the responsibility of owning it. Thankfully it is usually done in a non violent manner, in your absence, but still having spent something like Rand 5000 on a bike, you wouldnt be too happy to see it gone!

  10. I have just spent two months in South East Asia. Bicycles and scooters are everywhere. They are cheap eco friendly and bikes are good for health. And because everyone has one, there is no stigma attached. Am definitely buying a bike as soon as possible. Then a scooter. And follow with a scooter.

  11. where in Zimbabwe can one look at purchasing mooped/scooter? i think your idea is simply briliant!

  12. Bullying & safety on the road is the no. 1 problem, so I would suggest building it up like those pizza delivery bikes to improve size , I dont know by how much this will affect fuel consumption?

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