One of the most important things I never gave much thought to – which is well pointed out in this article that indicates that neither do planners – as I opted to begin cycle commuting, was parking and security for my bike when in the Nairobi Central Business District. The first time was when going to Times Tower where security had been stepped up such that even the space up front where motor cycles parked was clear and cordoned off. Just few feet away is the National Oil petrol station and a courier van. I toyed with the idea of requesting the courier guys to watch it for me but changed my mind when I noticed the newsstand guy sitting on a box on the pavement just outside the perimeter metal barrier.
Good thing he remembered me from some time past when I had been forced to leave him with a package I was carrying because the security at Times Tower wouldn’t allow me in with it. He moved his box for me to chain the bike to the metal perimeter barrier behind him. Gave him thirty bob for the trouble even though he did not ask.
The second time was when I went to see my tailor on Biashara Street. I found a very cheerful guard at the entrance. After watching me, chain in hand, trying to figure out how to secure it to a Nairobi City Council trash bin or the telegraph pole, he gestured towards the wall and moved his tomato crate seat for me to lean the bike against the wall.
“Hapo iko sawa.” (“It will be just fine there.”)
Gave him twenty bob for his help, voluntarily. As I left the tailor’s pushing my bike along the pavement, I noticed Black Mamba Bikes secured creatively; chained to a metal security door just next door, chained to a telephone line pole and just outside City Market chained to a disused door.
The third time was at a bank on Kenyatta Avenue. Just outside the bank there were three Nairobi City Council Officers, two uniformed and the third plain-clothed, busy looking out for motorists running the red light.
As I leaned my bike against the wall outside the bank, I looked at one of them and asked if it was within the City By Laws to leave it there briefly. One of the uniformed ones feigned deafness as the plain-clothed one assured me it would be fine.
The fourth time was at one of the posh old buildings on Wabera Street as I went to a stock brokerage that I had visited numerous times before. The security guards looked down their noses as I parked the bike against the wall at the entrance, took off my helmet and walked over to the lifts in the ample lobby.
“Madam, unataka kuacha hiyo hapo?” (Madam, are you leaving that there?”)
Ummm… Let me think …Yes I am going to leave it there. As if I am going to take it with me in the lift six floors up.
“Tafadhali enda u-park pale kwa parking ya piki piki. Hapo Kanjo wataibeba.” (“Please go park it at the motor cycle parking. If you leave it there the Nairobi City Council officers will carry it away.”)
I obliged and pushed it over to the motor cycle parking. As I stood there, chain in hand, once again eyeing a City Council trash bin, a taxi driver at the taxi rank nearby offered that I chain it to the pavement railing. Sharp!
Choices for secure bicycle parking in CBD are few, but the helpful nature of people makes it easier. This is not to say that the City which has a smoking booth, tidy shoe shine stands, neat dustbins, clean and functioning public toilets has no designated bicycle parking…
This bicycle parking (pictured) spot is at the bottom of Koinange street outside the public toilet, adjacent to the public smoking booth and a church; this is perhaps the most accommodative street in CBD Nairobi – also hosting Casinos, an eclectic traders market, hair salons, print shops, stationery stores, hardware shops, restaurants for all pocket sizes, university colleges, mid level technical colleges, banks, and a haven for twilight girls after sunset .
The bicycle owners secure the bikes to the metal stands sticking out of the ground. Some of the stands are mere twisted metal in the ground from being repeatedly ran over by passing heavy vehicles over the years.
For now this will have to do.
It can get better and neater though; it would be great to have something like this, that allows you to wait out the rain, while the city can earn from a fresh branding space! How about these ideas from Cycle Hoop that could see those headless, former parking meter poles turn into bike parking. Some day, hopefully in my life time, there will be a map of Africa like this one that details commuter cycling infrastructure.
Some suggestions to the City Fathers to make some money:
Or to save space and accommodate more bicycles in a smaller space the stackable bike rack:
Happy cycling in Nairobi and beyond!!!!