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Fleeting moments

December 30, 2017

Taming the traffic


December 30, 2017

When you think about going to work in the morning, the first thing that comes to mind is how to wade through the sea of unruly traffic on the roads. The thought dampens your spirit to deal with the multifarious chores of daily life. And if you’re a senior citizen who drives back and forth himself, you’re worse off. Who has the remedy for it other than the government?

The roads – especially in Lahore and other areas across Punjab – are spacious and well-maintained. What have not been enforced are road discipline and an adherence to traffic rules. The government doesn’t seem to consider the traffic problem seriously, even though orderly traffic on the roads serves as free publicity for administration’s efficiency or otherwise. Disorderly traffic implies a lack of government writ. When stuck in a traffic gridlock, people often grumble about how the roads are cleared for VIP movement while the taxpaying road-users suffer.

Managing traffic is not a project that requires a large amount of funds and planning. Although the road infrastructure – including flyovers, underpasses and wide roads – exists, the will to streamline traffic is lacking. As reported in the media, 700 new motorcycles are added everyday to the roads in Karachi. A similar number of motorcycles add to the huge mass of two-wheelers plying on the roads of Lahore. The motorcyclists drive on the road’s left, right and centre. Nothing deters them and no one keeps a check on them since they fly faster than the law itself.

Keeping in mind the increasing number of motorcycles on the roads, the administration should consider providing a separate barricaded lane for them. This will help streamline traffic and prevent accidents involving motorcyclists.

Unlike the car drivers, the motorcyclists bear the brunt of the impact during accidents and they often sustain head injuries. A visit to the Lahore General Hospital, which treats patients with head injuries, will reveal the vast number of patients who are admitted there in a day. You can see young motorcyclists in coma or with their legs suspended high in plasters.

And who hasn’t tailed behind someone driving leisurely in the fast lane with a cell phone glued to his ears? Other cars have to overtake him from the left. Such drivers are a nuisance for law-abiding road-users. Road courtesy is something we will perhaps never learn. Using a cell phone while driving is a serious violation of traffic rules in civilised countries and the erring drivers are promptly fined. But this is not so on our roads.

The less said about the intersections on the main roads with traffic cops manning the traffic lights, the better. Negotiating such road crossings is a test of patience. The traffic lights are either out of order or their timings are irregular. On many intersections, there are slip roads to facilitate vehicles to turn left without waiting for the green light. Owing to the negligence of the traffic police, the vehicles waiting on the red lights usually block the slip roads, preventing the vehicles from turning left. As a result, every road crossing presents a scene of traffic chaos. Behind long lines of vehicles, ambulances carrying sick patients are often stranded. One such site of traffic disorder is located near the Jinnah Hospital where long lines of vehicles choke the road and block ambulances from moving in and out of the hospital.

And those who live and work near the main roads where heavy vehicles ply also find themselves at a disadvantage. They have to put up with the constant pressure horns from vehicles, which has a jarring impact on our ears. Environmentalists would eagerly make an issue of cutting trees to add a lane to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic on the Lahore Canal banks, but they would remain silent about the pressure horns or the traffic jungle that the citizens brave through every day. High-decibel pressure horns and loudspeakers are the main cause of noise pollution. The high volume of noise produced by their incessant use causes an irreparable loss of hearing. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I have to ask everyone: “sorry, please say it again”.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]

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