Commercial bicycle taxi operators say they are being harassed on the road by officials of different road agencies and are seeking protection.
Commercial cyclists were allowed back on national and city roads last year, but they claim little has been done to guarantee their rights as road users and they have none to report the harassment to.
“We don’t know who impounds our bicycles or under which law. We fall victim to individuals claiming to be traffic law enforcers, local security patrols or individuals who claim to be agents of our co-operatives,” said Olivier Siborurema, a bicycle taxi operator in Nyarugenge District.
According to Mr Siborurema, the cyclists are forced to give out money or else their bicycles are confiscated for illegal parking, obstructing traffic or a random traffic offence.
Kigali, like many urban centres in the country, has seen a rapid increase in the number of bicycle taxi operators on roads that are not designed to accommodate cyclists.
Areas like Nyabugogo, Gatsata, Kinamba and Niboye attracted hundreds of bicycle taxis, while Kigali now has an estimated 2,000 cyclists.
Secondary cities like Musanze, Rubavu, Nyagatare and Huye also boast a large number of bicycle taxis. The cyclists compete for road space with motorists, cars and pedestrians.
Charles Niyomugabo, who rides a bicycle taxi, said they earn between Rwf2,500 ($3) and Rwf3,000 ($4) daily on average.
The cyclists are mainly young people from the lower social class, school dropouts and rural-urban migrants who find the business attractive because of the relatively low capital investment.
However, despite having many clients, most of their earnings go to pay multiple non-statutory charges and fines imposed by people claiming to be law enforcers.
Mr Niyomugabo said they pay Rwf10,000 ($12) as licence fees to sector officials, while extortionists can take as much Rwf3,000 ($4). This is in addition to a Rwf100 daily fee paid as contribution to the co-operative.
Jean de Dieu Gatera who heads KICOTAVEVEMO Tuzamurane, a co-operative with more than 200 bicycle taxi operators, admitted that members are subjected to multiple fees and there was a need for advocacy.