Second Quarterly Boda Report
Earlier this year, we accepted the only way to deal with the lack of comparable boda boda data in Kampala was for us to start collecting the data ourselves. So we conducted the first quarterly boda boda report, assessing helmet usage and utilization.
For the second quarterly survey, we again conducted observations across the city, but this time also assessed whether drivers were carrying passengers or loads. We found that 12.4% of utilized trips (where drivers are visibly carrying someone or something) are delivery trips, compared to 87.6% being passenger trips. We also found that drivers were 53% more likely to wear helmets when they were carrying passengers rather than loads or nothing at all. Let’s take you through it.
The survey was conducted over an seven-day period from October 1st-7th October 2022. Same as the first survey in July 2022, for each observation surveyors spent fifteen minutes at a roadside location counting boda bodas passing one direction, then the other. We revisited around 70% of the 34 locations surveyed in July and added four new ones to have a more equitable spread across KCCA and the three surrounding municipalities of Nansana, Kira, and Makindye-Ssabagabo. This time around, each location was visited twice 1.5–6 hours apart on the same day. Over the course of the week, surveyors observed 18,975 boda bodas.
The second survey found that 70% of drivers are wearing helmets across Kampala, a less than a 1% difference in observed helmet wearing from July. There remains a huge difference in helmet wearing from Central Division, at 86%, to the surrounding municipalities, where only 57% were observed wearing helmets.
There was a small rise in boda boda utilization — meaning carrying a passenger or load while moving — across Greater Kampala by a little over 4%. Boda boda utilization was shaped by many factors, including numbers of boda bodas operating, cost of trips, customers willingness to pay, seasonal variation, and more — there was nothing obvious so far to point to to explain a potential slight rise in utilization.
This survey, unlike the first one, surveyors distinguished between whether bodas were carrying passengers or loads. They found that load-carrying averaged at 8% of moving motorcycles, with a range of 5.7–11.0% across the eight divisions. Passenger usage, however, seemed to dip slightly in the suburbs from around 51% in KCCA to 47.5%. However, this could be explained by time of day.
Whether to Protect the Head
Helmet wearing is variable across locations, times, day and whether they are carrying a passenger or load. A significant factor in determining helmet wearing rates is the location of enforcement personnel, specifically the Uganda Police Force. For example, we found 91–97% helmet usage on Kampala Rd outside Ponnus restaurant — around 300 meters from the Central Police Station.
Lowering helmet wearing when carrying loads is less obvious. Possible reasons include that boda drivers moving heavy goods are less likely to consider safety issues in the first place; or that those moving goods may be driving more slowly and thus believing themselves to be in less danger. Carrying irregular loads — such as furniture, or other motorcycles — often results in slower driving, which could again encourage drivers to believe helmets are unnecessary.
Directional Utilization Difference
Directional utilization difference describes whether bodas moving in a certain direction were more highly utilized than those moving in the opposite direction. It describes the flow of people and goods. It is higher and highly variable during the morning hours, where 1.53x more people and goods are moving in a specific direction, while study locations averaged 1.2x difference in the early afternoon from 12–4:30. DUD rises to 1.43x in the peak evening hours from 4:30–7.
In some ways, this raises more questions than it answers. The morning commute seems to stretch all morning, asking us whether many people are starting work late, or their work is beginning with errands. Additionally, the evening out of directional flow could be because of people seeking to avoid the heat and direct sun, or that many people are come back later at night — or having spent the previous days earnings on a boda ride to work, are shifting to minibuses to get home.
In the meantime, there are several recent motorcycle-taxi reports — including one from Safe Way Right Way on helmet usage in Kampala, and one by Amend / FIA Foundation on motorcycle-taxis across Africa— that we’ll be reviewing shortly. Stay tuned.
The survey team was made up of Geofrey Ndhogezi, James Kalungi, and Tom Courtright, with mentorship from Paul Mukwaya, of the Urban Action Lab at Makerere University. The survey was co-funded by Tom and several generous donors, including Bret Fickes, Nancy Smith, Cate Denial, and other anonymous donors. To donate to the next survey, taking place in January, please go to the Ko-Fi site here.