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Are we ready for the new traffic laws?

  • Published at 12:04 am November 14th, 2019
Traffic
Pedestrians crossing roads unlawfuly Mehedi Hasan/ Dhaka Tribune

There remain doubts about their efficacy

The implementation of the new law, designed to bring about a semblance of order to the city and the country’s errant traffic situation, has been postponed twice in order to enable adequate publicity. 

While messages blare out from traffic points in the city, it isn’t clear if the transport owners and the transport drivers have been taken through the elements and consequences of the law through any induction process. Judging by the chaos that continues, one doubts it, leading to fears that matters will head for a mess.

Hefty and prohibitive fines are incorporated in the law for, among other offenses, motorcyclists driving without helmets, use of mobile phones while driving, and indiscriminate parking. That is how it should be, and follows a directive by which heavy transport without fitness certificates are to be refused fuel by petrol pumps. 

There is little doubt that the main targets of the new law will be heavy vehicles and private transport. What measures will be taken against indiscriminate parking of rickshaws and CNGs hasn’t been elaborated. 

In the meantime, the absence of sufficient proper bus stoppages, the lack of initiative to recover the ones that do exist from encroaching street vendors and rickshaws, and no moves towards anywhere near adequate parking don’t bode well.

What will happen is that commuter traffic will be further at the mercy of the police. Add to that a total disinclination of pedestrians to use footpaths, most of which are occupied by street vendors, foot-over bridges, and an absence of clearly demarcated zebra-crossings -- leading to a nightmare for the hopelessly outnumbered police to control.

Shortly after the student movement for safer traffic, guides were deployed on main thoroughfares to convince commuters to use foot-over bridges. It wasn’t much of a success. Even media shaming didn’t achieve much. 

The short-lived fining of jay-walkers introduced wasn’t much of a dissuasion, and was ultimately discontinued. Restricting rickshaw movement on some additional main city roads has been either a wobbly success or a complete failure, such as on the Badda-Rampura road. Where it has worked, rickshaws jam up the side roads and alleys, thereby adding to the mismanagement.

There is much to learn of traffic management from Kolkata in this matter. Cycle rickshaws have been relegated to the suburban areas and auto-rickshaws and hand-pulled rickshaws confined to the smaller by-lanes, thus freeing up the main roads for the remaining traffic. But above all, the Damocles’ sword will be brought to bear on private vehicles, of which far too many are being allowed to clog the streets and roads.

The road markers are carefully and diligently painted, but remain as mere beautification, with no one caring two hoots about double yellow lines that clearly demarcate no overtaking. In the old traffic weeks, rickshaws were forced to travel in single lines with resulting impatience and long lines. The same will happen to buses if they are somehow forced not to race each other in overtaking. 

For the time being, commuting traffic will be subject to heavy fines for violations that are almost impossible to avoid.

The coordinated action required for adequate parking facilities at shopping malls, most of which charge fees, and concerted moves to create public parking should have gone side by side with the new law. As it is, extortion by the police from public transport exists. The new law will add to this menace, with grave doubts about the efficacy of the new law. 

Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.