As per my previous post, I mentioned that I will be breaking down into the different things I experienced and observations I made during my brief trip to China. We were hosted in Hangzhou but got a day to tour Shanghai as well.
I will start with what caught my interest the most which is urban mobility. Being a Startup in this space it goes without saying that I had to see what these guys are doing right in Hangzhou that we could possibly borrow or adapt to improve our situation here in Nairobi and Africa as a whole.
First of all I have to give it to them..their infrastructure is top tier! The roads are all smooth, well labeled, sufficiently manned… everything just seems perfect. They have incorporated a lot of technology into this to enable better services. They have a number of tall collection points in the main highways. They have double decker highways…in layman’s language and to bring it closer home, Its like a Thika Super Highway with 2 floors!! I did not experience any traffic! This is in comparison to Nairobi standards of course.
There are no round-abouts!! All junctions are controlled by perfectly working traffic lights! Everyone seems to know what to do on the road..I did not see any traffic incident at all!! Clearly they are well disciplined and probably there are heavy fines for breaking traffic rules methinks.
I did my best to try out all the public transportation options available. They have Regular metered Taxis, Didi Global (Uber For China), Shared Bikes, Shared E-Scooters, Trams, Metro, Bullet train, Regular Buses, Tourist Buses, Ferries, Boats etc.
Below is my review for at least what I managed to sample:
This was our first mode from the Airport to our Hotel. The Airport Taxis are saloon cars branded Green and grey. Interesting thing is that they have a meter for calculating your fare so there is no negotiation and you are at the mercy of the driver’s route and speed to your destination. They are comfortable and drivers are friendly despite the language barrier. They accept cash or payments via Alipay.
We also got to ride on Didi Cabs, Uber’s equivalent in China courtesy of one of our friends and staff at Didi. Didi is very effective and covers a wider range of transport services. Got to reach out to them for some mentor ship and potential partnership.
City Buses, Tourist Buses & BRT
I only managed to get a bus ride to the airport although I really wanted to experience the other rides as well. I was especially looking forward to trying out the BRT since we are getting it in Nairobi hopefully this year. We are anticipating how it will work with our Matatus and it has been quite a debate so far.
The tourist buses are double deckered and are available in specific stations for touring various parts of the city.
The regular city buses are very comfortable and are also well planned. There is a route map for all places in the different bus stations.
Ferries & Boats
We boarded a ferry to cross over to a different side of the city where we could view the World Financial Centre building. The ferry ride was about 1 Yuan each ie KES 15 since it was a really short distance. You take the whole ride standing just like our veru own Mtongwe ferry in Mombasa. It is however very modern. There seemed to be several ferry service providers going by the different designs/options that were there.
There were also water buses and boats also navigating the river in the market side of the town in one of the Traditional villages as well as doing cruises like The West Lake tour in Hangzhou.
Two-Wheelers: Shared Bicycles, Public E-Scooters & Motorbikes
There is an encouraged cycling culture in China. This is popular in the smaller quieter towns where there isn’t much traffic. Cities have set up shared cycling stations where you can hire a bike to cycle for an hour to a whole day. There are several public bike stations where you can just pick up one and use it as required. The charges are very friendly ranging from free to the first hour to about 60 Yuan / KES 900 for 24 hours.
There are also public E-Scooters which were a thrill for me. You just get one at a parking station, pay for it electronically, pay for it and leave it at your destination. There are various charging points and they are actually checked and maintained by the city. We met some of their local officers or “kanjo” at around 2 AM checking them out and arranging them. Some( Don’t ask what we were doing out at that time, story for another day 🙂 )
I actually saw very few private bikes, and the ones I saw were high end superbikes and monsters. Spotted a Honda CBR 1000 and a Kawasaki Ninja somewhere.
Trains: Metro & Bullet Train
We took a bullet train from Puyong Airport in Shanghai to the CBD. It was a fast experience. Went from 0 to a max speed of 431 KPH in about 5 minutes. There was a sonic boom of some sorts when we passed the othe train going opposite direction. There were No seat belts in this train. The one way ticket was 50 Yuan which is about KES 750 or about $7.
After landing in CBD we took the underground metro to a different part of town. The experience was typical metro style where you could sit or stand holding your self up or lean on a pillar or the wall. The metro is way cheaper and we got to pay 6 Yuan or KES 90 or less than $1 all the way back to the airport!
We got to experience road trams in Shanghai. They are basically carriages pulled by an engine but are not following a specific pathway since they were on the pavements and ferrying people around short distances across streets.
Quite a number of private cars but got to see them mostly over the weekend. People rely on their different modes of public transport since it is very convenient. This is what we are aspiring to eventually get to in Kenya and eventually Africa as a whole. Many of the private cars are new and high end. Also saw several Chinese brands and electronic models.
So this is what I got to experience so far in terms of public transportation. It will be great if Nairobi could adapt in one way or another some of these innovative ways to encourage use of public transportation and curb traffic for better mobility.
As a Startup, we are doing our best to improve people’s experience in matatus through innovation and technology. We are making good progress and will eventually curb some of these issues in the long run with the help of relevant partners and the local authorities.
My next post will be on technology… stay tuned!
Oh and you can Download MyRide Africa and check out our new booking feature that we are testing with Ubabi Vanpooling to book your direct “flight” from Ruaka to Westlands and back!!