The Government of Uganda issued a set of strict new terms for boda bodas (motorcycles or bicycle taxis) before they were allowed to resume passenger transport this week in observance of guidelines on the reforms to streamline and regulate their operations in the city.
This follows a Presidential directive on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, during a live televised nationwide COVID-19 briefing as government eases the lockdown.
Among the new terms, all operators will have to first be registered at particular stages before commencing services. Consequently, a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for all the boda boda operators nationwide have been issued by the government through the Ministry of Works & Transport and Ministry of Security.
Accordingly, the line Minister General Katumba Wamala also directed that boda boda riders must wear face masks, helmets, and possess sanitizer spray to disinfect the passenger seat after each trip. Likewise, the passengers must wear face masks.
A statement on the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) website reads in part: that all boda bodas must follow and comply with Cabinet resolutions including that boda bodas must operate at gazetted boda boda stages, and boda boda operators must be registered at any of the gazetted stages and this shall be their address to enable contact tracing in case of COVID-19 infection.
All boda boda hailing app taxi companies, namely Safe boda, uberboda, and taxify, as well as associations are then required to share the register of all their members (after registering every member to a gazetted stage).
Also announced during the Presidential address was that all intending passengers be registered and their temperatures taken, but this was met with criticism from civil society who experienced concerns that it would infringe on privacy in contravention of the constitution and arise safety fears plus other logistical issues that made the butt of jokes doing rounds on social media considering most boda boda operators are illiterate and would be hard pressed to register their passengers or even read or afford temperature guns.
In line with the SOPs, Uberboda has already updated their messaging for intending passengers to view before confirming a ride requiring passengers to wear a cloth mask or face covering as required by the government to cover their mouth and nose and if they sneeze or cough, to use their elbow or a tissue to cover their mouth and dispose of the tissue immediately. In addition, passengers are required to handle their own belongings.
The Cabinet also approved a Boda Boda Free Zone where all boda bodas are prohibited from accessing the CBD considering they are quite ubiquitous which could negatively impact the SOPs intended to avoid overcrowding and, therefore, spread the virus.
KCCA is also in the process of procuring Boda Boda Stage Signs to mark the gazetted stages permanently and traffic signs to demarcate the Boda Boda Free Zone as the city embarks on traffic reforms.
Boda bodas have been popular with tourists for their convenience or simply for the thrill of whizzing through traffic during gridlock on city tours or even courier errands notwithstanding their notoriety for road carnage.