• Monday, Nov 18, 2019
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The importance of safe roads

  • Published at 12:00 am October 22nd, 2019
Road safety
At least 25,526 people were killed in road accidents over the last 10 years in Bangladesh Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Not only do they prevent untimely deaths, they also help the economy

Under the 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development Goals, road safety is one of the key goals for ensuring healthy lives and human well-being. Road safety is addressed as goal 3.6, which aims to halve the number of road traffic-related deaths by 2020.

How does Bangladesh plan to achieve Goal 3.6? Currently, Bangladesh is not a state party to either the Convention on Road Traffic or the Convention on Road Signs and Signals. These conventions establish an international benchmark for road traffic rules and road traffic infrastructure. 

The government must ratify these conventions and upgrade the country’s infrastructure in accordance with them. There should be more traffic signals, zebra crossings with push buttons, cat’s eye reflectors, and road signs on paved roads and signboards. Such infrastructure should be spread across every nook and corner of the country.

The government has to start thinking out of the box. In addition to increasing road space, it needs to promote and incentivize investment in public transport. The goal should be a city that is more efficient as a result of smooth-running transport routes and cleaner air quality. 

Auto-rickshaws have hazardous bodies -- the interior of an auto-rickshaw feels like a cage. Any bump on the road may result in the passenger having a bump on the head due to the metal railings inside.

It’s time for Dhaka to look at the Volkswagen Electric Taxi concept that has been proposed for Milan, Berlin, and London. The concept should be considered for local mass production in Bangladesh to replace the auto-rickshaw fleet with more comfortable and aesthetically pleasant electric vehicles.

The poor quality of buses differentiates Dhaka from most well-functioning cities. Most buses in Dhaka have ramshackle bodies with grubby interiors. Many buses continue to emit black smoke. 

It is time to replace the current bus fleets with contemporary electric models. Laws and regulations should be enacted to ensure that bus interiors conform to a standard of safety and comfort. Only companies that conform to a certain standard should be allowed to operate public buses.

In order to incentivize the replacement of current bus fleets, the government can consider a one-time grant to bus companies to procure contemporary and safe buses. It is also crucial for bus drivers to receive adequate training in public transport.

The establishment of training centres across the country must be considered for bus drivers.  

At present, only a partial construction of a rapid transit system is taking place in the national capital and is scheduled for inauguration in 2021. Much of the construction is above ground. 

Underground tunnel building technology has evolved significantly, as seen during the development of the Channel Tunnel across the English Channel. Underground tunnels and metro systems should be considered for Dhaka and other metropolitan cities. Construction should be performed in a manner that causes as less inconvenience as possible to commuters. 

The traditional rickshaw is often the cause of great congestion in our cities. Bangladesh needs to have a debate on the rickshaw -- should they be phased out from large cities? Or should there be specific lanes for them? Potholes are an ever-increasing problem. They are often seen in important thoroughfares of downtown areas. The government must keep all roads well-paved.  

The national highway system needs eight-lane and six-lane highways. Leading international construction firms and experts should be appointed to redesign the national highway system. 

Investing in road safety and public transport will make our cities more efficient. More efficient cities will cause a multiplier effect on the economy. Efficient cities are focal points for globalization and the world economy.

Given Bangladesh’s demographics, the efficiency of our cities should be an utmost priority.

Umran Chowdhury works in the legal field.