August 8, 2016 By Osman Lahai
Hail a taxi cab on the main streets of Freetown and you will not hear your own voice in a cacophony of ‘two-way’ and ‘three-way’ shouts from fellow commuters. It’s fashion for the city’s glitterati but an awkward nightmare for the ordinary commuter.
The word out on the streets is that the cab drivers are cashing in on a financial windfall after an agonising period of bad municipal traffic in the wake of the Okada ban within the Central Business District. On the flipside, commuters, and to some extent the city’s gentry, may be playing smart by yelling ‘two-way’ in order to induce an unsuspecting driver to pick them up. Both ways, I sense a rigged transport system.
It’s argued that the ways of some city taxi drivers – particularly the disruptive elements in their rank – are legendary. They enjoy those long queues of commuters and take absurd pleasure in not respecting and communicating with their passengers. To them, the opinion and protest of the passenger count little or nothing. And with their unending appetite to secure the ‘many-way’ payments to central town, they are gaming the Freetown transport system on an industrial scale.
Generally, you have the good ones – mostly the elderly – and the smart young ones. They price the comfort of their passengers above cash and the stubborn ‘two-way’ payments. They can engage and are courteous to their passengers.
But surprisingly, prominent in the ‘two-way’ transport equation are the private car owners – sometimes referred to by the occasional skeptics as “lies on wheels.” Some can offer ‘lifts’ and at the same time shout ‘two-way.’ Some are accused of kerb-crawling and some are ‘friends’ of the city police – if you get my drift.
Added on, in the city, some folks spend money on cars not only for mobility but also to stir up envy of their neighbours and commuters. So next-time watch-out for those tinted and speeding black jeeps when crossing a zebra.
Looking for a solution in a mix of jobbing cab-drivers dominating the Freetown commuter system, completed by ‘combat ban’ on Okada riders, ordinary passengers will continue to pay top whack for the ‘two-ways’ and ‘many-ways’ to the inner city. This perfectly sustains a broken transport system with long commuting nightmares – fulfilling the proverbial ‘more light but little tunnel.’