• Tuesday, March 05, 2024
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An attempt to reinvent the past – Bolt rides in Lagos, Nigeria

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Commuting by cab in Lagos has certainly come a long way since the era of rickety and unattractive taxis. A couple of years ago, cabs were a popular means of transport. In Lagos, where I reside, it was routine practice to hail taxis at motor parks. Popularly referred to as “drops,” these taxis convey you right to your destination, or to the closest possible stop.

Today, cabs in Lagos have come a long way from the era of old cars with rattling doors and faulty power windows. The advent of ride-sharing services like Bolt has elevated the service delivery of the transportation business in the state. Commuting in cabs now has a dash of sophistication—neat, luxurious, and air-conditioned sedans—a far cry from the taxis that once plied the streets of Lagos.

Nonetheless, in spite of the ease and flexibility of transportation that Bolt offers, it is not without its own niggles.

On a number of occasions, riders have been subject to harassment from Bolt drivers who are haggling for higher fares. One too many drivers have attempted to bargain in a face-to-face discussion in a bid to receive a higher fare than stipulated on the Bolt app. In some extreme circumstances, drivers have demanded money up front and threatened to cancel the ride if their over-the-top demands are not met.

Closely related to the aforementioned is yet another form of exploitation on the part of drivers by taking longer routes. Some wise drivers are fond of taking longer routes to arrive at a destination. This underhanded tactic helps them achieve two aims: clock more distance by spending more time on the road, and subsequently get more money. A friend of mine had a spat with a driver who took a longer route and ended up stuck in traffic. My friend ended up parting with more cash than she envisioned, and moreover, she got to her destination late.

Commuters in Lagos commonly experience heavy traffic along with the stress of public transport. These twin factors have raised the appeal of Bolt. Subsequently, a Bolt ride provides solutions to these conundrums: a sole rider in an air-conditioned car and speedy transport by effectively eliminating the need for stops.

Sadly, some drivers waste time picking up riders by lying about their locations. Rather than being honest and cancelling the ride, they cajole you into waiting for them despite being stuck in traffic, several minutes away, or both. These frustrate riders in a twofold manner: firstly, by wasting their time waiting for a driver, and secondly, by missing out on potential drivers close by.

Furthermore, the recent Bolt fares have had a large variance between the estimated figure before the ride begins and the actual fare after it ends. Usually, this is not uncommon. However, in the past few months, the estimated and actual fares have been so skewed that riders find themselves budgeting higher amounts in the event of an amount far above the estimated fare. Perhaps this is due to the subsidy removal of petrol in the country, which has raised transport fares nationwide. Yet, there has been no clear response from Bolt for the reason, leaving riders speculating endlessly as to the unevenness.

In essence, it is evident that the majority of the complaints surrounding Bolt revolve around fares and the unprofessional conduct of some drivers. Like any other business, it is not exempted from scoundrels and money-grubbing behaviour. Bolt drivers are not exempted from the get-rich-quick mentality that has deeply permeated the Nigerian atmosphere. Bolt can put some checks in place by monitoring rides with in-built cameras on the Bolt app and by taking stronger action against unprofessional conduct when reported.

Adedoyin Ajayi is a writer and corporate worker based in Nigeria.