Despite increasing motorisation in Botswana, the donkey cart and bicycle are still the main means of transport in the rural areas and is used on a daily basis for transporting children to and from schools, community members to work, clinics and farms as well as for basic livelihoods such as access to access water, fuel wood. However, Increasing motorisation, combined with some inadequately maintained infrastructure, has made these transport modes unsafe, in both urban and rural areas, and worse, the needs of these road users are routinely omitted from the designs of road improvements as most of the roads have no special provision for donkey carts and bicycles, making their users vulnerable. The other risks to donkey cart users and bicyclists are increased by:
• Poor, driver behaviour (selfish, aggressive, risky, fast, intoxicated)
• Poorly maintained roads (drivers changing correct trajectories to find smoother routes)
• Poorly maintained shoulders (rough, eroded, vegetation encroachment)
• Inadequate infrastructure (footways, cycle lanes,donkey cart lanes, islands, pedestrian crossings)
• Obstructed infrastructure ( shoulders blocked by parked cars, materials, traders, signs, etc)
• Unreasonable behaviour by bicyclists and donkey cart users (crossing roads, ignoring lane conventions).
In the last four years, about 299 road crashes involving donkey carts were registered. Society of Road safety Ambassadors (SORSA) a youth-led road safety NGO in Botswana in collaboration with The Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety, hence implemented a project dubbed Tsela Tshweu which attempted to redress this problem. Tsela Tshweu is a national traffic prevention, awareness and education program aimed at curbing crashes relating to non-motorized transport. Daily, tragic reports from across Botswana, make national news regarding those seriously injured, lives lost, and stories of families left mourning the loss of a loved one.Education to motorists has been done many times by different governmental and non governmental organizations but leaving out non motorized transport users. It is also observed that the educational campaigns that are always done over the holidays on major roads seen to exclude donkey cart and bicycle riders and farmers who leave their cattle to roam on roads. It appears farmers and motorists have the idea that it is the responsibility of the government to remove livestock and maintain road side fences, therefore educating them as discussed above will allude to them that it is the responsibility of us all to make sure that our roads are accident free in any how. The government alone will not manage or is not coping as we see road accidents increasing.
We had observed that most donkey carts and bicycles lack the basic safety equipment of adequate reflectors, bells and lights. While lights and their batteries can seem expensive to low-income people, reflectors are extremely cheap. One of the most dangerous times is early evening, with fading light and inadequate street lighting when donkey cart users and cyclists are difficult to see, particularly if they are in dark clothes. The problem is often made worse by dust or rain. The use of reflectors, reflective vests and light-colored clothing greatly increase their visibility. Hence this valuable road-safety initiative involved the supply and fitting of front and rear reflectors on bicycles and donkey carts. This project was executed in Pilikwe, Topisi, Serule, Serowe and Palla Road, reaching out to 2279 community members; 666 bicycles and 930 bicycles were fitted with retro- reflective tapes and reflectors.
This also entail educating bicycle and donkey cart users that like motorists they are expected to obey road safety precautions in order to curb road crashes in our country. The program started with consultations with the village leadership, in particular the Chief and the Village development Committee in order to get their buy in, lobby for their support as well as source permission to access the community. Prior to starting the project, questionnaires were distributed to the communities to find out the community knowledge about visibility and its benefits as well as to check if indeed they see the need for the intervention. The Chiefs of these villages mobilized the community at the kgotla. The community was summoned to the kgotla to bring their donkey carts to be fitted with the reflective strips and reflectors and where the education on the need for visibility to be made. We also invited the Police to sensitize the communities on the laws related to using the bicycles and donkey carts on the road and charges related to carts and bicycles that are not visible. Let us all join hands and contribute towards the safety of all road users, particularly cyclists and donkey cart users. As SORSA and other stakeholders continue to search for more ways to reach out to these vulnerable road users, we must not forget that safety remain the primary responsibility of all road users. I urge all motorists to exercise patience and caution on the roads, as the cyclists and donkey cart users may be less aware of the potential hazards around. We cannot take it for granted that all will be well when we are on the road; complacency can lead to disaster and tragedy. By being more mindful of our road conduct, we will help keep our roads safe. As Society of Road safety ambassadors (SORSA), we believe it is long past time for a change in how we design and operate roadways. Roads should be for everyone, not just for people in cars.
I would like to conclude this article by imploring all drivers, pedestrians and passengers to take full responsibility of ensuring that they are all safe on the road. I wish to also commend all the road safety stakeholders, in particular MVA Fund, Police and Department of road transport and safety for their continued contribution, support and encouragement in this project. We have learned a lot from them and will continue to look up to them for guidance and assistance as we continue with our road safety journey. We are also highly appreciative of the sponsorship from The Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety. The Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety is an umbrella organization that represents over 130 NGOs active in road safety in more than 90 countries. As I write this article, I know that many more innocent people are murdered on our roads from road crashes which could be prevented. SORSA believes that the ultimate responsibility lies with all of us for making our roads as safe as possible. Let us join hands with the spirit of supporting each other, of helping each other and looking after and working with each other the way we have been taught from the beginning of time. Road safety is not just a concern of the government. It’s my concern. It’s your concern. It’s our concern. We must take action and be proactive in road safety issues. Saving lives and reducing serious injuries on our roads should be the key road safety priority for 2017.
Society of road safety ambassadors (SORSA)