The signal comes with a control unit powered by a solar panel and a camera that views the bodaboda rider’s face.
Motorcycle taxis, commonly known as boda boda, are a preferred mode of transport in both rural and urban areas for their ability to manoeuvre through traffic and carry loads, and they are cheap.
However, there is a high cost in terms of accidents which result from abuse of traffic signals and poor road use. Many of the riders are also poorly educated and lack knowledge of road traffic signs. This was the reason Makerere University Industrial art students got working on a bodaboda road traffic signal system.
The students are: Moreen Owomugisha, Shaban Wakamwa, Zubair Moya, Immaculate Ainobugabe, and Margaret Nanyonjo, all students of electrical engineering.
Rampant bodaboda accidents have led to the creation of a dedicated ward for motorcycle accident victims at Mulago Hospital. They chose to focus on the word “Slow” with a picture of someone on a bike because some of the riders cannot read, but can easily understand signs.
“We followed the rule of road signs having a red demarcation and illumination, so that it stands out among the many road side sign posts at night. So, before the boda man reaches the sign, he would have already viewed and understood the instruction. We plan to have them along busy roads and road junctions,” Wakamwa says.
The motorcycle road traffic signal comes with a control unit powered by a solar panel and a camera that views the boda rider’s face, number plate and stores it. Moya says they added a speed gun similar to the one used by traffic police to control the riders.
“It is held so when a car passes at night, it lights to signal if a rider is speeding, but alarms during day. Currently it is manual, but will be automatic in the long run when we develop software for it,” he adds.
“The boda riders have always ignored traffic lights with the assumption that they do not apply to them. That is one of the reasons for the rampant accidents,” says Nanyonjo.
The team plans on adding more graphics for the boda people so when it turns red, all the bodabodas will stop and get ready for it to turn green before they move.
On whether it will take over the work of the traffic lights and police, they say the police are human and get tired, and sometimes they are not on the roads at night. But their innovation for boda bodas is powered by solar and will be on 24/7. They say it does not replace the lights, but adds to the concept to cater for the boda boda riders who assume that traffic lights only apply to vehicles.
They hope to contact the ministry of works and transport to get feedback and forge a way forward with their innovation.
They also believe that a partnership with Vivo Energy on their road safety programme dubbed Tweddeko will help sensitise boda riders on the importance of road signs and traffic lights.
But first, they want to share the project with Resilient African Network, a local innovations laboratory that nurtures and scales innovations from different universities.