One of the first things that will catch your attention the first day you arrive in Uganda is the omnipresent boda boda. Boda bodas are bicycle and motorcycle taxis commonly found in East Africa, and are plentiful in Uganda. These motorcycle taxis carry all types of 'goods' which may include furniture, food items, animals and of course your daily commuter.
Boda Bodas to the rescue
The story of boda bodas is a story of necessary evils. To begin with, boda bodas operate in the city in an uncontrolled and often reckless manner. Many of the boda bodas do not respect traffic signals and as such create an ever-present threat to all road users. The traffic police often focus their attention on the vehicles and trucks for compliance and leave the bikers with a lot of room to maneuver and weave through traffic as they see fit. Truth be told, many boda bodas are not safe and certainly not meant for the faint hearted. Many of the accidents that happen on the roads are often related to boda bodas and their daring maneuvers.
Having said that, some of the self-respecting boda riders do an honest job, follow traffic rules and prioritize road safety. A boda boda will save you time and get you to your destination in a very short amount of time compared to your standard car user. These bikes are also handy during emergencies and critical moments when you just have to be somewhere and can’t afford to stay in traffic for an extra hour. Bodas also serve a pivotal role in the rural areas where regular transportation is rare and hard to access. They help facilitate businesses and the transportation of people, although on a much smaller scale.
Optimal Boda Usage
Using bodas is about understanding the risk and benefit. It’s a continuous decision to make everyday, especially in regards to the need and urgency involved, convenience, and distance of trip. Bodas are relatively cheap and fast which makes it a very tempting option, especially since the traditional taxi vans are slower and likely to delay in traffic. Bodas are also able to take you right to your doorstep. Some of the best ways to utilize bodas is to ensure you use a trusted and known boda rider. This is because you have a starting point if anything goes wrong. It’s also important to consider the route you are taking and the timing of the day.
Overall, bodas are important because they provide a source of income for many Ugandans and are also an available source of transportation, although sometimes not the safest. It’s important to use your discernment when using one and always wear a helmet. The boda system is a tricky one which will have you scratching your head and thinking - how can the boda system be structured, improved and streamlined? This is the question many Ugandans and visitors alike ask themselves. Maybe you have an idea that can evolve into a new course of action (good luck with that). What’s important to know is that bodas are part of the Ugandan experience and every bold and adventurous visitor should try it out. At least sit on one and take a selfie!