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The Joys and Frustrations of Cycling in Lagos: An interview with Seun Adesanya

Lagos is one of Africa's most populous cities and also a major commercial and cultural hub on the continent. Like many urban and rapidly urbanizing places on the continent, there is a need for safe, active and inclusive transportation options, as a way to promote healthy behaviours like physical activity, reduce the risk for chronic diseases, and for injury and reduce pollution. One of such options is cycling. Engage Africa Foundation's Dr. Ebele Mogo talked to Seun Adesanya, an avid cycler, about the experience of cycling in Lagos. Seun can be found on Twitter @The_SeunA. Enjoy.

 1) Tell us a little bit about you

I am Seun Adesanya. I am a transportation, e-commerce and logistics enthusiast. I currently serve as the public relations officer of a BRT operator in Lagos state.

2) How did you become passionate about cycling?

Like most kids, I got a bicycle as a gift and the joy of having to ride around our neighborhood kickstarted this. Now as an adult, I have been cycling causally for the past 3 to 4 years. My recent professional venture into the transport industry in Lagos has highlighted the need for alternative means of transportation to ensure each of the adopted transport models in Lagos state (BRT, waterways, rail, cabs, etc) are successful. You see, in a proper environment, one needs to be able to come off a bus/train/boat and have several options to complete the last mile, either you hitch another bus, cycle or even walk all the way.

We really don’t need every one driving cars around, we have people today living and working within a 5km radius or less and still having to drive down, constituting to this never-ending traffic gridlock we have in Lagos.

3) What benefits do you get from cycling?

A lot of personal benefits actually; keeping fit, avoiding traffic, simply letting out steam etc. Cycling has been of great benefit to my physical and mental health and a lot of friends I’ve introduced to it share the same testimonies. Cycling has also been a great networking avenue for me, I have made a number of great acquaintances along this journey.

4) How has it been cycling during the pandemic?

The peak of the pandemic was probably the best time to cycle, I’d say I saw the true beauty of Lagos since everyone was home. Less cars, cleaner air and all. Even since the relaxation of the lockdown, its still been pretty fair, I have chosen to adopt cycling more during this period.

5) What groups do you find cycle more often? Which ones do you find not cycling as much? How do you suggest more people can be included in cycling activities?

Majority of the people I come across cycling are relatively young, I also come across a few middle-aged people. Most of the cyclists I come across ride with groups and communities.

I cycle with City Cyclers every weekend, it’s a community of cyclists around Ikeja and environs, they ride every Saturday morning and Sunday evenings and its so much fun, check them on Instagram @city_cyclers.Also Bikaholics (@bikaholicsoflagos on instagram) they have period casual rides mostly on the island. I also know of other cycling groups such as Cycology, Cyclotron, Cycling CEOS, etc.

I’ve noticed a lot of people are actually interested in the idea of cycling but may not know how to go about it, especially with the reputation of Lagos roads; I feel people in this category need to freely reach out to these groups I have listed above, especially those close to their neighborhoods. Once you’re able to ride a bicycle, you never really forget. I meet a lot of people who say they haven’t ridden a bike in 10, 15+ years and are skeptical, but once they hop on a bike, they are riding again easily. The thing is, once you’re able to connect with a community around and start by riding together as groups, in a short period, you be able to take trips on your own.

6) How do you think we can have a culture that is conducive to cycling?

Building this cycling culture in Lagos would not take so much really, people are willing to adopt this but the right infrastructure to support this has not been put in place. We have no cycling lanes, most road users generally do not respect we 2-wheelers; public spaces & private institutions need to adopt bicycle parking lots. Once we are able to hack this infrastructure issue, a lot more people will be confident of hitting the roads with bicycles, I need to be assured that I am also identified and respected as a road user. These are issues currently being discussed with the relevant bodies within the Lagos state government. There are also a number or social apps that encourage cyclists to connect and take up challenges around. Eg Strava.

7) How do deal with concerns around safety when cycling e.g from pollution, accidents, crime, and the likes? How do you think we can make cycling safer?

Right now, as a cyclist in this part of the world, you really must ensure you have taken all possible safety precaution on your end and be extra careful, as mentioned earlier we are still looking up to the government to make our roads more cycling conducive, while we wait, every cyclist must ensure they wear helmets and other body safety kits, reflective vests for late riding, pay extra attention to road signs and lights.

In a country like the Netherlands that’s considered as a cycling capital, you hardly find cyclists wearing helmets, you are not scared of getting hit by a car at a corner because almost every driver is also a cyclist. So a driver knows to lookout for a cyclist before making any road decision. This is the level of awareness we need out there.

Lol. I feel like I’m talking about too much negatives on cycling here in and on the contrary, cycling even in Lagos is so much fun.

We just need the right infrastructure and public enlightenment to make cycling safer here.

8) Tell us about something we forget to ask you but you think our readers should know

I believe this has covered quite a lot, it also needs to be known that cycling isn’t anything new in Lagos, we’ve always had commuters and even vendors selling with bicycle carriages. It’s just been a long overlooked mode of transport that we now need to pay more attention to.

Thank you Seun for sharing your experiences with us.

Dr. Ebele R.I. Mogo is a researcher, innovator & an advocate for a healthy African future

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