Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The 235th good thing about Lagos: less chaos on the roads

It's amazing to me that it has been over 4 years since I first came to Nigeria and that Brent has worked here 4 1/2 years.  We originally thought his work here would only last less than one year.  But I know that when we finally leave Nigeria I will be quite sad to leave this country.  I had a wonderful summer -- a memorable trip to Israel, time with grandchildren and opportunity to help my adult children with situations where I know I was really able to help them out, which is always a great feeling.  But after all that, I was really ready to get back to my Lagos life.  I have good friends here and fun activities and time and opportunity to do things that I don't do when I'm in my Houston life.  So I'm glad to be back!

In our years here, we've seen great changes in the areas of Lagos where we live.  Lagos State Governor Fashola has put a high priority on making improvements in certain areas in Lagos and I've seen evidence of this in Victoria Island and Ikoyi.  When we came here, in those areas, I don't think there was a single working traffic light and now there's many, and most the drivers now follow them, at least during the day.  There is still frequent bad traffic situations and many "go-slows."  I left an afternoon activity recently and it took me 2 1/2 hours to get home.  When I left the same place at the same time the following week, I was home in 20 minutes.  But there has been an improvement in one element of traffic -- there are new restrictions on okadas (motorcycle taxis).  These signs were put up as restrictions went into effect the first of September.
Okadas are now not allowed in some areas of Lagos, including Victoria Island and Ikoyi and the Lekki expressway, where I spend most of my time.  There are still private motorcycles on the road, but they are fewer than before and my driver is very happy about the change.  The okadas were notorious for their reckless driving and watching out for their erratic weaving through traffic was a constant challenge for car drivers.  Many okada drivers considered themselves above following traffic laws, like stopping at red lights.  I'm sure there are many workers who relied on okada transportation who are having a much more lengthy commute now that they have to commute on a bus.  But my driver confirms without any reservations that this is a big improvement on the roads.  But, as I've said before, I'm just extremely glad that driving in Lagos is a challenge for my driver and not for me!  Sitting in the back seat relaxing while I listen to my ipod is one great benefit of my life in Lagos!