BusinessDay Media

Lagos Traffic. I will Rather Trek

Traffic in Lagos is usually bad. You get used to it. A couple of hours everyday is factored into our daily commutes. You take it in. One of the penalties we pay for living in a town of twenty million people. With barely enough infrastructure to serve a quarter of that.

Lagosians live with hope. And for a while that hope seemed to be paying dividend as there was promise that the road misery was seeing its last days. First was BRT service that provided special lanes for buses. With this came the happy death of the infamous Molue buses, those yellow contraptions that carried death, destruction and lawlessness and seemed to define the Lagos of an era

And then LASTMA, a special traffic service that controlled traffic and wielded the big stick on traffic offenders. Some bit of technology and traffic lights came up in strategic junctions and helped improve traffic.All seemed to be going well for Lagos. Commute reduced for most folks. And hope was on an upward journey.

And finally the Lagos light rail project started. A giant project that would haul thousands of Lagosians who besiege bus stops and wait endlessly for BRT and commercial buses. This would be the killer punch for the monster traffic that still lurked in the city.

All was going great. Then..

Until recently. Whatever has happened to Lagos recently?. All the gains seem lost. The train project is all but grounded after almost ten years. Major road construction including the one to Badagry, still creating misery for that axis for a decade. The whole Apapa axis has been taken over by trailers that block major highways including bridges leading into the business Hub of Marina and Victoria Island.And traffic is back to the city with a vengeance.

Should I Trek?

Today the 29th of November, commuting between Lekki , Ikoyi and Victioria Island has all but taken away four hours of my life. In saner times , this should take about an hour. I am writing this in a traffic from Kingsway Road towards Victoria Island. I will finish writing possibly before the traffic takes me beyond Victoria Island, a normal five minutes drive . I could actually have trekked . It would have been faster. And perhaps healthier. But that comes with its risk. The city is not built for walking. Or jogging. Or biking.

Who knows when I will get home? But I am one of the luckier ones. I am sure other people have their stories. Mostly worse than mine. I have a driver. I have an air conditioned vehicle. But the majority of the twenty million people will endure this hardship with little comfort. And still have to work hard in their offices. And take care of their families. Even try to live a semblance of whatever normal life that is possible.

This is not a productive town. Otherwise we would calculate how much we lose to traffic. And the cost of traffic to our health. And it will spur us to create a more mobile and health friendly town. For ourselves and our children. We would use our whole energy to protest the trailers on Marina bridge and Apapa. And ask why the train which started before Addis Ababa is still work in progress while the citizens there are having fun riding their trains. We would sympathize with the victims of the Badagry Road axis who have borne the brunt of one of the most lackadaisical road projects that has made their lives a misery for so many years.

Timid Lagos MiddleClass

The Lagosian is aggressive outwardly but timid. The middle class and wannabes whine and complain and do nothing. They are comfortable complaining of Abuja while the traffic out of their houses make their daily lives miserable.Their kids in schools spend unholy amounts in traffic going to and from schools. Work keeps them away and provides little time for family bonding. There are wives and kids left lonely at home while husbands keep company of fellow commuters in buses and cars stuck forever in traffic. The Lagosian grumbles ,drinks his beer and champagne and abuses Abuja.

And then consoles himself with a fake superior attitude. That Lagos is the best place to live in Nigeria. But he forgets, of all cities in its class, his Lagos is one of the worst places to live in the world. It only hits him when he travels out of Lagos and lands in Accra or Nairobi, Johannesburg or Cairo. The real cities that should look up to Lagos .. These cities have have their troubles.

But none , would like to be this Lagos.

Love Me Lagos

I still love Lagos. But I want Lagos to love me a bit. And show love to the twenty million of us who call this place home. Make us proud Lagos. There should be more to you than the story of traffic. Our potentially beautiful beaches . Our Owambes. Out night life. Our youth culture. Our fashion. Our tech. Our music and Nollywood. And our outlandish churches.

I am still in traffic. But my story is done. Tomorrow, I will wear a walking shoe.