Saturday, June 22, 2024

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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

A merry mayhem

 Is there any fix to our traffic woes?

Update : 28 Aug 2023, 05:24 PM

While difficult to put a finger on it, there’s something beautifully quaint about Dhaka’s traffic that isn’t confined to vehicles. The statement is provocative, especially for those that are totally frustrated with the energy-sapping time spent in snarls and gridlocks.

Physicians have long ago identified this particular fatigue of mind and spirit being dangerous. Research tracked it back to family spats, decline in productivity, and growing short-tempered situations. The more jocular minded have suggested some form of in-transport toilet facilities, though there’s nothing funny about it.

Dhaka must soon find its way into the record books as a metropolis where all conceivable forms of transport-mechanized or otherwise causing an impasse that the best of efforts taken by traffic authorities haven’t been able to address.

Sophisticated traffic signalling installed with tax payer money collapsed unceremoniously, causing a return to old-fashioned human traffic control. That too doesn’t work, as offenders of rules just can’t be hauled up for fear of adding to the chaos. The dignified version is "lack of coordination" between the many agencies that have a role to play. Obviously, that brings with it -- responsibility. 

The essence is no one really seems to give a hoot. The government's plans in building flyovers, committing overpasses, and the elevated expressway have taken too long to come into operation. Mostly, designs were wrong and by the time they become accessible, they look worn out and inadequate.

The quaintness is the colourful artwork on rickshaws and CNGs, the multi-coloured and multi-dimensional helmets worn by motor cyclists that so choose: There’s a breath of freshness in the abandon with those that ride these bikes often with family members, but without helmets, allowing wind through the hair that makes for a tangled spectacle.

There’s a surreal look to private buses, mostly beaten up to the extent of not having tail lights or side mirrors. There’s a tenderness of authorities in allowing such vehicles on the roads so as to reduce commuter suffering. There’s generosity on part of the commuters in paying more fares than prescribed, and a happy bonhomie between owners of such transport owners and the Bangladesh Road Transport Agency inspite of setting several deadlines for properly approved fitness certificates for the vehicles to be run.

The inevitability of extension of deadlines and ignoring the unsanctioned fare hikes is taken as another hit to wallets by a good humoured passenger.

Ambitious plans of fixed bus services limited to a few companies announced with great fanfare have retreated somewhere no body knows. The brilliant idea of blocking frequent intersections hasn’t been a popular move. The quiet protest is for unbridled wrong side traffic eager to save on gas and time than go kilometres before locating a U-turn. Staying with the U brings to the fore the famous U-loops, partly the brainchild of late Dhaka North City Mayor Annisul Huq.

When buses and private cars join motorcycles, rickshaws, tri-vans, and the motley chaos gains a new definition. No one gives way but somehow, through inching and edging forward, gaps open up miraculously. That’s where the fascinating sight of a dipping of light, a nod, a motioning of the eyes reveals in all glory. The outnumbered and unequipped police can be forgiven for giving up.

Exacerbating the errant rule-breakers is the growing number of privileged persons using fog-horns as or "VIP" honkers that usually move in small retinues accompanied by police of hand-held Belisha beacons to try and wave other riff-raff away. Even the crème de la crème are beginning to moan and groan. 

The eye-watering beauty of the foodie Bengalis is on full display on roads, side-roads nooks and crannies, not to mention the little spaces of fresh air respite. There they are joined by the growing numbers that have reverted to the role of vendors with more than just vegetable wares.

Experts have run out of ideas that no one wants to listen to. Colourful flower-decked high-tables from where long-winded commitments for change are made make for a form of entertainment full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

There are answers, but not palatable for fear of upsetting cronyism Apple-carts. Such has been seen from efforts to reclaim rivers and footpaths. Temporary bans on car and motor-cycle imports just can’t be done.

Actually, they can. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Now is one of them, if there’s courage among sheep.

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

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