There is no reliable data for the number of productive hours that Lagosians waste in traffic every year, but everyone around here has one anecdote or the other. If it’s not the lady who has to wake up at 3.30AM to beat the traffic every morning, it’s the guy who nearly lost his job because he kept coming late despite leaving the house at 6AM. Traffic is a never-ending nightmare for most of the 21 million people condemned to carrying out their daily business on the tiny roads of Lagos. However, you can make it just that little bit less unbearable for yourself by using some of the following suggestions.
Live in a central location or as close to your regular destinations as possible
This definitely sounds easier said than done, especially if your regular destination is on the Island and you do not make an extortionate salary. However even then, you can consider getting a place at Oworo or Bariga, that will offer quick access to 3rd Mainland Bridge, cutting at least half of the dreary morning crawl toward the Island. In conjunction with this solution, you can also use IT solutions to limit need forface to face meetings as much as possible. Skype, Facetime and Google Hangouts all offer excellent teleconferencing capabilities, and with a typical 4G-LTE connection available in Lagos, you can get a lot of work done both at home and on the go, without seeing people face to face.
Use Google Maps traffic feature!
Yes, it really does work in Lagos. Make sure to check the map for traffic conditions before you head out, and look out for the telltale red lines denoting heavy traffic. This will tell you whether to take an alternative route, or possibly postpone your journey. In the event that you really have no choice but to get stuck in, you will at least be able to prepare your mind somewhat for the slow hours of inch by inch tedium that await you.
Be unconventional – get a bike or use a bike service, or maybe even a ferry service
Several nifty little transport startups are offering ‘Uber but for motorbikes’ services across Lagos, particularly on the Mainland-Island route. This is an excellent way of getting past the interminable morning gridlock. If you are adventurous (and loaded) enough, you could even consider getting a bike of your own so you can zoom past the hordes of unfortunate motorists atop your two-wheeled symbol of freedom. There is also the option to make use of the expanding ferry services available in Lagos. Ferry jetties are currently available at Ikorodu, Badore and Victoria Island, but more are being planned by the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) in the next few years, so you may soon be able to make use of the Lagos lagoon as a superhighway that never backs up and never has bad spots and potholes. Plus the view is great as well!
Leave home very early. Save a few hours and take a nap at the office. Then leave the office late.
Recommending a very early commute may seem like preaching to the already converted in Lagos, but unlike those who merely leave the house early to beat the traffic and get to the office, your aim here is not merely to sign in before 9AM and be a zombie all day. The goal is to live a complete and relatively satisfying life by simply modifying your clock. You literally shift your clock forward by 2 or 3 hours in the morning, then shift it back 3 or 4 hours in the evening. So for example, if 3rd Mainland begins backing up by 6.40AM, by 6AM you are already in the office or at your destination taking a hearty 2-hour nap. When the day is done and everyone is leaving the office between 5PM and 7PM, try to hang around till 9 or 10, and then enjoy a leisurely drive home on an open road. The difference in the time you get home compared to conventional commuters will not be more than a couple of hours, but the real win is in your quality of life. You get home without the accumulated stress and cortisol of Lagos traffic and so you find it easier to get to sleep. You wake up early and get to work in a jiffy, then enjoy some more sleep while your colleagues are inhaling diesel smoke and dozing fitfully on the road. You wake up refreshed by 8AM to start your work day, and they arrive stressed and flustered. And on and on like that. You’ll be surprised how much this strategy pays off.
Organise your daily schedule to fit around off-peak traffic times
Unlike the last suggestion, this option applies more to people with a lot of control over how and where they spend their time. A typical office worker may not be able to decide when they resume or close, but if you are an entrepreneur or a consultant for example, you can decide to make your morning meetings late morning meetings and thus avoid the morning rush hour. If you have school-age children, you may be able to come to an arrangement with their school to release them just before the evening rush hour begins, so that both they and you do not get ensnared in the craziness that occurs between 5PM and 8PM everyday weekday in this city.
And if all else fails, you can always put on a nice music playlist or podcast and relax in the comfort of your car’s AC until it’s all over.
If you don’t have a car and you’re stuck in a danfo, then you probably need three very important tools. You need your phone, a fully charged power bank, and a powerful pair of earphones or headphones. It’s all you have left against what is coming.
The best part? Come tomorrow, you have to do it all over again!