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Outering Road among most unsafe highways in the world

Though expanded four years ago to smoothen the commute, Outer Ring Road has become a killer route instead, and now the United Nations high-level meeting on road safety has described it as one of the most unsafe in the world.

Speaking during the just concluded UN high-level meeting Urban Mobility expert Claudia Adriazola-Steil gave an example of the 13 kilometre road saying that it is unsafe.

“An example from Kenya, which is not the only example, around the world this happens over and over again. But there was an investment in a highway, an urban highway named Outering. That, in the first nine months of 2021. It had been the most dangerous road in the city with very (many) fatalities. Ninety percent of them were pedestrians…,” she told the UN.

Ms Adriazola-Steil has worked in the transport sector for over two decades and focuses on the intersection of sustainable mobility, climate change, public health and equity.

As a senior director of a company known as WRI, she was instrumental in developing one of the most innovative road safety programs in the world, based on the Safe System Approach and making connections to sustainability and equity.

In March, the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) said in a survey that one is more likely to die on Outering Road, Nairobi, than on any other city road.

Outering Road accounted for 44 of the 371 deaths recorded last year. It was followed closely by Waiyaki Way, which claimed 38 lives, and Mombasa Road with 29 deaths.

In 2021, Embakasi West MP George Theuri urged the government to erect barricades along Outer Ring Road in Nairobi, so as to curb the rising cases of accidents and deaths.

The lawmaker noted that the increasing deaths of pedestrians who attempt to cross the busy dual carriage highway instead of using footbridges are on the rise.

He raised concerns over a surge in cases of accidents along the road with the stretch between the former Taj Mall and Allsops on Thika road, adding that at least four people lose their lives every month.

“Could the Ministry (of Transport) consider putting barricades between the two locations so as to forestall recurrence of multiple accidents which are being witnessed almost on a daily basis? We receive weekly reports of pedestrian accidents at my office by residents with most of them being as a result of failure to use the footbridges that have been provided for,” said Mr Theuri then.

The 13 kilometre Outer Ring Road was dualled by Chinese firm Sino Hydro Tianjin Engineering Limited at a cost of Sh8.5 billion and launched in 2015.

However, Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) has been faulted for failing to ensure the busy road is well maintained. As a response, the agency has been erecting footbridges along the road with the plan to put up 11 footbridges at a cost of Sh880 million.
NTSA estimates that pedestrians accounted for at least 90 percent of all deaths.

Former Nairobi Area Traffic Commandant Joshua Omukata once admitted that Outer Ring Road is a headache, with many pedestrians risking their lives to cross the dangerous road instead of using designated spots. The designated spots include footbridges, zebra crossings and where traffic marshals control traffic.

The five-kilometre stretch from Donholm to Taj Mall has no designated bus stops, a resident of Tassia lamented, forcing matatu drivers to pick up and drop off passengers at spots that are far from footbridges.

As a result, matatus drop off passengers in the middle of the roads just under the footbridges, forcing them to walk across the road and then re-cross it by climbing the footbridges. The Quarry footbridge is located less than a kilometre from the notorious Fedha footbridge.

Here, most of the passengers coming from the city centre use the footbridge because matatus drop them off right at the foot of the structure.