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Sierra Leone News: Keke safety debate continues

Motorized tricycles, commonly called “kekes”, are the latest trend in public transportation after the arrival of okadas in the early 2000s. In the West, adult sized tricycles are used primarily for recreation and shopping activities, but commercial, motorized versions have flooded the streets of Freetown.
Even though kekes have eased the dire public transportation difficulties and created employment for thousands of young, mostly male, Sierra Leoneans some people are questioning the safety of the kekes.
The Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA) is the institution that was established by an Act of Parliament in 1996 to coordinate, amongst other things, efficiency in the transport sector. Yet, there are no safety standards or controls on the three-wheeled keke.
Keke is a light vehicle that can easily be pushed over or tilted on its side. It has no seat belts, no doors, no air bags, and no real safety equipment. The drivers are not mandated to wear helmets and there are no specialized licencing requirements to be a keke driver/rider.
According to Marie Sesay, “I will never travel in a keke, because I think that kekes are more risky compared to okadas.” She explained that one of the safest means of transportations in Sierra Leone is by taxi and if there is no taxi then she will not travel. She maintained that most of the young men currently riding kekes were bike riders before. They were reckless on motorbikes and they are still lawless, which, she said, caused many accidents.
Theft is a problem in kekes. There are no doors or side windows and passengers have been robbed by passing gangs, especially at night in dangerous neighbourhoods. “It’s easy to reach in and grab a purse or bag,” said one anonymous victim. “I was dragged out and robbed,” he continued.
Joseph Koroma, a regular keke passenger, underscored, “For me, I think keke is the best and fastest means of transportation presently. I take keke everyday to go to work and I feel convenient whenever I am on-board a keke, compared to a taxi or okada.”
Sergeant Yusifu Kamara, a traffic officer, said there are fewer accidents caused by kekes compared to okadas. He averred that before the banning of commercial bikes in the central business district, they used to have many fatal accidents caused by okadas.
Kelfa Sandi, a keke rider, said, “I have been out of work for four years and I was finding it very difficult to survive.” He said with the arrival of keke he can now take care of his family. Sandi maintained that as a keke rider they are purely different from okada riders, citing that they are highly disciplined and contribute greatly to the development of the country. He said even though they have some bad egg in the trade but re-echoed that most of they are extremely responsible and discipline.
Mohamed J. Bah
Wednesday August 29, 2018.

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