On one of my training pedals to a nearby junction this past week, 15kms from Nkhoma, I looked up to see, about 1/4 mile ahead on the opposite side of the road, several bodies tumbling on the pavement just behind a moving truck. I could not believe my eyes and didn’t know exactly what I had seen.
I thought it might be a few young boys who hopped a ride by climbing onto the metal framing on the back of the truck. Maybe they had voluntarily decided to jump off at the point where they wanted to go, though I was shocked they had decided to hit the pavement while the truck was going around 30-35mph.
When I caught up to the scene, I saw what had happened: a truck had come into contact with one of the hundreds of motorcycles that transport cargo or people between village or as far away as Lilongwe (50km). (Here in Nkhoma, moms or dads, along with as many as three, sometimes even four children, can be taxied by motorcycle down the 3/4-mile-hill on their way home after school. It takes your breath away imaging the potential physical harm since most drivers and riders do not wear helmets, though they are being driven carefully and slowly).
The three people who had been on the motorcycle were somehow conscious and sitting upright. The motorcycle was demolished. I also saw the truck backing up to help the victims, which surprised me, as we’ve been told that vehicles/drivers will sometimes “hit and run” because they don’t want to risk dealing with the legal system which is nebulous at best — people are afraid to do the right thing by stopping because of the lack of due process.
With all the potholes, narrow tarmac roads, bicyclists, motorcycles, and pedestrians lining both sides of the road, with mini-van-taxis and trucks and cars trying to squeeze in between oncoming traffic, this was the first accident I’ve witnessed here. I was so grateful the three people were not seriously injured and that they had been taken to Nkhoma by the time I circled back.
(There is no insurance system here so the owner of the motorcycle may be out of work for quite a while until he finds enough money to buy a used motorcycle ($400-$500), unless the truck driver and his company decide, against the odds, to replace the young man’s motorcycle.)
Just one of the very tough realities of so many who have so few choices and such little control over so many of life’s hardships.