I’m going to date myself by saying this, but… who remembers Atari? (For those younger than 30, Atari was the distant predecessor of today’s gaming systems.) And how about the Atari game, Frogger? You know, the video game in which you had to navigate a poor little frog across a busy, multi-lane highway without getting him squashed by tractor trailers, cars or other dangers. The other day while navigating through Nairobi on foot, I suddenly had a flashed-back to Frogger – only this time I was the frog! This road is what gave me that image:
Yes, that is an 10-lane street. Fortunately there is a nice divider in the middle so you can take 5 lanes at a time. Needless to say, walking in Nairobi is drastically different that most American cities. If there is such a thing as j-walking here, no one cares, and few places in the city have pedestrian cross-walks functioning like Americans would know. In case you find yourself wandering Nairobi streets on foot, don’t forget these 10 guidelines:
- Pedestrians only have the right of way in “zebra” crosswalks, but don’t count on it there either.
- Don’t forget to look right first. Traffic drives on the left side of the road here.
- On one-ways streets, don’t assume cars will be traveling the correct direction. (And if in Kampala, you can count on them going the wrong direction).
- If you can get yourself across the street without getting hit, go for it!
- If traffic is moving slowly, just start to weave your way through, but always face the traffic!
- If traffic is stopped and filling the street, perfect! You simply walk between bumpers – but watch out for the motorcycles that commonly fly between cars too.
- If there are too many lanes to cross at once, get to the middle, walk the yellow line, then finish crossing when the other side is clear.
- If a vehicle is coming faster than you calculated, forget your dignity and run! Cars have and will hit pedestrians, even foreign ones.
- Do not ever assume that vehicles will go in the direction you think they will.
- When in doubt, stand on the down-stream side of one or two local people. When they go, you go too.
I learned to navigate these streets by walking with a friend and making sure I always stayed down-stream, and now I’ve been told I cross streets like a Kenyan. Hmmm… I guess that’s a good thing.
Note: Mom, don’t worry! I was always good at Atari Frogger.