Transportation Unusual:the Roller skating option?
My attention has been drawn to a recent phenomenon in the Nigerian public space, and which I find quite interesting: roller skating on ourhigh roads .I see young people roller skating in Lagosroad traffic and struggling with big and small vehicles to my amusement. I still remember my thoughts the first time that I saw one of them: It occurred to me immediately that thisis a means of saving money to avoid the high cost of transportation fares especially in the city of Lagos; forit could not be a means of pleasure or sport, since I simply consider that the high roads are too unsafe a place for fun seeking on roller skates. And these are fairly matured young people who are skating not in the evenings but during the day, andthey often straprucksacks signifying that they are perhaps engaged in something.
However, anyone would quite agree thatan alternative means of transportation in Lagos,apart from busesandtaxis, whichreduces your transport bill to an irreducible minimumis welcome.But then, the question is what type of alternative means of transportation, after all there are all kinds of things that one can use that will avoid the use of regular means of transportation. And this is especially so when we consider what falls within the ambit of the law and is most feasible and realistic.
Now, there is of course the bicycle,thetwo-wheeler scooter and so on.But amongst the various readily available or established means of transportation such as cars,buses,etc. one would stillhave to make the decision for the optimal means or anoptimal mix of all the available forms of transportation.I mean one could have a car, motorcycle, a bicycle, manual scooter,etc.,since they could all come into their own some time, all in a bid to ensure efficient and cost- effective transportation.
This kind of lifestyle is mostly common in societies where time,cost,convenience are factors for living, notably in the cities with the heavy volume of human and vehicular traffic.Hence,people move about with a means of transportation that takes into consideration these crucial factors in order that their movement is not impeded in anyway. Thus,it is of crucial importance that movement is not in any way impeded due to traffic. In view of this reality, public traffic authorities therefore put in place laws that ensure that these three broad factors are not compromised.Thusall kinds of transportation options are welcome. For example, in an effort to get to work, we generally commute with car, bus, taxi and so on.However, because of traffic someone with a car could park at home and then take a train or bus to get to work. Yet congestion and rush could happen. So we take the nimbler options such as the motorbike, etc. However, if thereis no deadline to meet we can afford to take our time with the bicycle, scooter, trek and so on.
In this regard, transportation options that embody economies of space and which satisfy the three broad factors of time,cost and convenience are highly encouraged.This is because the issue about heavy traffic and its accompanying cost implications is tied to the availability of space.Therefore,space and the number vehicles that move about per time determine the level of traffic at any point in time. The implication is that if there too many vehicles competing for the same space then it will have implications for the time to arrive at ones destination, monetary cost as well as the convenience. In terms of time, appointments could be missed;in terms of cost, concerns for money spent on fuel and turnover for transport business which naturally leads to transport hikes;inconvenience due to the long hours of waitingin gridlockwith its resulting boredom,tiredness,fatigue and so on. Also, how safe the means of transportation is falls within the convenience factor, for this factor could determine whether we arrive where we are going in one piece or not.Ultimately,our decisions for transportation are within the matrix : where we are going,the terrain,the cost,time frame to get there and how safe it is.
Thus, it is advisable to have a transportation system that seeks to ensure that these factors are recognized in spatial planning or transportationplanning. It’s therefore, crucial that planning forany given amount of space for human living takes into consideration the transportation options that will allow for the free flow as well as the regulation for how people move in that space.However, there are areas that are inherently human and vehicular traffic ridden because of the high movement of people in such places, for example, the financial district of cities. These tend to havehigh transportationcosts as well as restrictions by traffic authorities, mostly for vehicle parking, as these areas cannot really be helped. In this regard, aerial possibilities are considered for transportation solutions such that all areas of space for possible movement are considered. For example, overhead trains, buses, etc. that reduce the pressure on movement on the ground.
Thus, a transportation system that offers economies of space for all modes of transportation is ideal for places that havepotential forhigh human and vehicular traffic. Therefore, other means of transportation that allow movement in tight places - without much space - become a boon, e.g., bicycles, the roller skates, etc. Thus, the roller skate comes into its own in such circumstances.Hence, other restrictions or bottlenecksoccur from extraneous factors. Therefore, space planners, whether for town, city or wherever should plan their spaces forpossible expansion as this will cause a real problems if not anticipated.
Ideally, society is in a state of flux.It changes over time in relation to economic, social and political dimensions. This happens via the population or physical expansion .i.e., when there are economic prospects there is usually an influx of people. This is accompanied with physical expansion,buildings, and roads and so on.Also when societiesget economically strong, they begin to go for higher and more expensive or refined means of transportation such as cars. In China, for example, people dropped the ubiquitous bicycle for cars and flashy cars at that, even as things improved. These have filled their roads evenas the middle class is growing.
Thus, when planning for transportation, the authorities responsible should ensure or allow transportation system that allows people all manner of options to move about in relation to the volume or flow of life.For example, in large cities with many peoplethis is quite an issue. Therefore, in such circumstances it becomes needful for people to have all possible means of transportation so as not to get stranded.Hence,public transportation with economies of space is encouraged and popular. Also, restrictions that ensure that traffic is put at a barest minimum are set down so that movement is not impeded. However, this can be costly relative ones circumstances. After all, in the city people pay heavily for parking space, etc.
In recognition of the fact that societies change over time,and the people respond to this changes by either changing their mode of transportation either positively or negatively. The authorities makes room for possible change - expansion or otherwise - by providing for all possible means of transportation in the city. This is to ensure that people have as many transportation options as possible. Also, they ensure that these means of transportation are both affordable and safe. Ultimately, that an efficient mass transit system is in place whether by road, air, rail or water.
However, when there is poor planning for the transportation system of any society the populace tends to suffer. For when traffic is heavy, movement becomes difficult. Hence, individual or private movement with little economies of space is discouraged because it occupies space. Therefore, people will look for other means of transportation or get an optimal means to get around in such a way that their movement is not restricted. Thus people tend to get nimbler means of transportation that can help them manouvere congestion. Importantly, when we consider that regular means of transportation such as cars, buses, etc. do not get us that fast to our various destinations we are forced to take a motor bike ,etc. which have the capacity to get us to our various destinations quickly. Also, the implication of poor space planning is that we have to retrofit the system. For example, BRT bus lane by the Lagos State government public bus system in Lagos state, Nigeria with its special bus lanes.
Regrettably, in Nigeria we hardly plan our cities in anticipation for population increase, as such we don’t make provision for the possibilities for people to choose from.We traditionally, have the car, bus,ferry and train(interstate). However, people now go in three-wheelers, motorcycles and so on. These were not there before.But then,we do not have a system that makes bicycles, three -wheeler, etc. to be at the sides of the road so that people can move about freely and conveniently. Ideally, bicycles/scooter lanes should be provided in city areas, while roller-skates will go where pedestrians go.
Now, with regard to roller skates we have a situation where people roller skate where it is most unsafe: they compete with other vehicles on the road to the risk of their lives.Clearly, these people put themselves in harm’s way when they try and compete with vehicles that a moving with high speed .Worse still, you see these people freeriding; they just hang onto moving vehicles to take the speed for a period of time. However, when the car is slow this is okay but when this fast is most dangerous. They could easily fall if a vehicle suddenly exerts speed or a moment of lack of concentration for them could mean they fall on the road. The implication of this is better imagined. Just consider where vehicles are supposed to be moving with speed and they crash when one suddenly stops without indication. The result is obvious- an accident. So, how much worse when someone falls on the road without any indication. The obvious result is that such a person is run over; this means someone could just be crushed to death very easily.We have not heard of any reports of such accidents, but this is a real possibility given the manner in which the skaters ride: vis- a-vis the notion that you do not expect to see people or be careful for skaters. I mean, they just appear from the blue – unexpectedly! I still remember a particular day when someone was riding on skates and we almost knocked that one down. This can be a very ugly experience if it happens, knowing the usual public reaction to such incidents. Thus, one does not wish to knock down anyone, or in the worst case kill someone.
However, I have no problem with people riding skates, but what I see is the abuse of skates on our streets. If there is a special lane that is way out of main traffic, all right. For this is then a veritable means of transportation in the city, particularly for young ones such as student: You ride to destination, keep your skates in a bag and then go on, no bother about parking and so on and It saves money on transport. Thus it is one the most flexible means of getting to your destination without much stress, especially in very congested areas.
I want to stress that there is nothing wrong at all for people adopting what I now call alternative transportation such as the bicycle, roller skates, etc. I remember when Ojo Madueke, a former minister of transportation, came out with the suggestion that the bicycle should be considered as a means of transportation, I didn’t take him seriously. I wonder how many people subscribed to that suggestion of bicycle riding. But now I ride one, at least to the grocery store in the neighborhood. But then this is a veritable means of transportation in the developed countries that we seek to emulate.
But regrettably, we generally tend to see bike riding as something inferior, cheap, below ones dignity and so on. We have this notion of class in our society so much so that for one to ride a bicycle, apart from sports or at a young age, it is demeaning. This to me is unfortunate for the psyche of the average Nigerian. Why such reasoning? What is there in riding a bicycle? But for many of us,notably the bourgeois class, this is the case: people will say one has fallen in class and so the social respect is lowered. In our society functionality is really not a virtue in our social life. I think we must begin to jettison this silly mentality out of our culture. I remember that a Yoruba friend of mine said that at a time in the past it was infradig for Yoruba civil servants to ride a motorbike. How can this be thought of? But today has the story not changed because the economy has down changed. But then see the developed countries that we seek to emulate, this is not their way of thinking .In Amsterdam for example, almost everyone there has a bicycle. And they ride it.
Well, things seem to be changing: some high profile workers in Lagos state now ride to work, at least on power bikes. These have prestige value, by the way. But then will they also ride the smaller capacity bikes of the Okada fame. Admittedly, I won’t want to ride such a bike before, but that mentality is just not realistic. Admittedly, the transportation infrastructure such as bus stop shelter points, public transport system is not so much an option for decency, efficiency, etc. Thus, almost everyone wants to own a car. However, it is status symbol here, because of our poverty mentality, so most people want to own a car.
Thus, I expect the media organizations such as television and radio stations to begin to push this culture of alternative transportation in our society:I think we need a cultural revolution in this country. The Nigerian television authority (NTA)and other state television stations should put forth programs that champion this alternative transportation culture rather than programmes that simply show social functions such as birthdays, weddings, etc. just like the NTA newsline program is wont to do: show of high society weddings. Rather, they should show programs to educate society and redefine our societal values. The National Orientation agency should work hand in hand with the Ministry of transportation to promote alternative means of transportation.Furthermore, I expect the Ministry of transportation to come up with the transportation options for the populace. They should go beyond the traditional modes of transportation such as roads, water, air, rail. We want something creative for have been hearing about roads but nothing yet concrete has happened to our roads. What the ministry should be doing is that in addition to repairing the others-road, rail, water, and air-they should improve transportation options in public spaces. They should work hand in hand with the ministry of planning and environment to design and provide infrastructure for all the possibilities in transportation, scooter, skates, etc. We need to feel their impact!
In view of the foregoing, our traffic authorities need to be proactive. We must begin to put in place systems that to check incorrect use of the alternative means of transportation. We need to go into our statute books and ensure that there are no loop holes for these skaters to bypass the law. However, if there is no law against this, it is at best subsumed in others, I imagine. Otherwise, it should expressly and explicitly be put there, at least for people hanging on to vehicles. If this is not checked in time it’s only a matter of time before we begin to hear of accidents and untimely deaths. But regrettably this is mostly the case with our public authorities, until something goes wrong they never act- they just react.
Importantly, with regard to alternative transportation such as roller skates, the laws for these people should concern how to ride, where to ride, skate and so on. They should wear helmets, reflector vests at night. Also they are expected to ride at the side of the road, the same for scooter or all non-motor cycles. Thus new roads should come fitted with road barriers at the side for skates, bikers, etc.
Welcome to the world of alternative transportation!