Rainwater and roadblocks

October 2, 2016

Prolonged traffic jams after scattered rains are a common sight. A look into the reasons and ways to get rid of them

Rainwater and roadblocks

Traffic jams and congestions are a common feature of the city and there is hardly a day when the commuters find relief from them.

There can be different reasons for these but sometimes one fails to figure out as to what leads to the creation of such mess on the roads.

Over the last few weeks, it has been observed that scattered rains at different points of the city ultimately led to choking of traffic for long hours. So, what exactly is the relation between rain and traffic jams? Is it so that the people try to reach their destinations within minimum time and come out on the roads in large numbers or is the risk of accidents on slippery roads that makes them drive slow and safe?

There is also a view that in a bid to avoid contact with the rainwater standing on roads, people converge on the lanes that are dry, hence causing congestion. Traffic accidents when it is raining -- or after a heavy shower -- are also quite common and often result in road blockades.

Ahmed Rafay Alam, a lawyer with interest in urban planning, tells TNS that there are many places in the city that are historically low-lying and rain water accumulates there instantly. "There is hardly any provision for exclusive drainage of storm water and this also has to go to the same sewage channels that soon get full and overflow," he says.

Citing the examples of Lakshami Chowk and Tajpura, along the Canal Road, as places that are hard to be cleared of rainwater due to their low-lying nature, Alam says, "Whenever there is rain, these points are choked and the traffic at these places as well as on the alternative routes moves at a snail’s pace."

Alam, who is also an environmentalist, thinks the government, the policymakers and the town planners must realise that the impacts of climate change are getting stronger by the day, and design the infrastructure accordingly. "For the past few years, it has been observed that it rains at scattered places for a small time but the intensity is so high that these places are inundated in no time."

He suggests that the road and traffic planners must design future projects in such a way that the storm water after heavy shower can be drained quickly.

The road and traffic planners must design future projects in such a way that the storm water after heavy shower can be drained quickly.

"Although there are wide roads in the city, measuring from 80 feet at some places to 240 feet at others, there is a problem with their alignment in certain cases due to which the water gets trapped in dips and the four-lane roads suddenly become two-lane because nobody wants to enter the part where water is."

Alam points out that the situation is even worse at underpasses where traffic comes to a halt due to the water accumulated there and hundreds of bikers stationed there who are taking cover from rain. "As the vehicles try to enter the lane next to the one going through the underpass, after finding it full of water, there is mess and obstruction in the free flow of traffic.

"Though there is a provision to drain storm water from underpasses, the time required is long enough to create traffic jams on the roads."

The commuters have their own stories to tell. Muhammad Hanif, a teacher by profession, complains that whenever there is a traffic jam in the city, in the event of a downpour, traffic wardens are the first to disappear from the scene.

"Even otherwise, you hardly find them at the locations earmarked [for them]," he says. "They are more interested in issuing challans than controlling traffic and maintaining its flow."

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Hanif is also of the view that the traffic wardens do not usually guide the commuters on which routes to take and which ones to avoid during rain. "We only come to know about this once we are trapped."

Salman Pervaiz, who owns a motorbike, believes that bikers are the most vulnerable as they "fear slipping on the road in case [they] apply sudden brakes on slippery road during rains.

"Besides, those driving the cars don’t show us respect. They vroom past us, often kicking rainwater in the air. That is why we enter green belts or take service lanes but the people blame us for causing what they call nuisance."

A spokesman for the Chief Traffic Office (CTO) rejects all such allegations and states that additional traffic wardens are employed at roads that are affected by rain. "Even the lifters are sent to lift cars that broke down and move them to the roadside.

"Cars and other four-wheelers whose engines shut down due to water entering them obstruct the flow of traffic. For this very reason, we try to respond to such emergencies fast and quick."

The spokesman adds that even though there are several reasons for the traffic mess, the irresponsible behaviour of the public is the biggest culprit. "Unfortunately, very few people have road sense and know how to behave in such a situation. Traffic gets stuck mostly because the people violate one-way traffic rules, enter prohibited lanes, choke the service lanes, form additional lanes and stand face to face with vehicles coming from the opposite sides."

He agrees that it is hard to stop and challan every second traffic violator, especially at a time when restoration of smooth flow of traffic is the main priority. "The government is working on a project to settle the matter. Cameras are going to be installed on city roads that shall take snaps of the violators and number plates of their vehicles and send them tickets at their home addresses."

What is happening at the moment is that some traffic wardens have been provided with android phones that they use to take photos. After obtaining addresses of the vehicle owners from the excise department, with the help of the number plates, the violators are issued warning letters. The traffic department officials believe that once the people know they are being watched and chased accordingly they will not dare to violate rules the way they do it now.

Tasleem Shuja, National Manager, Customer Care and Safety at Atlas Honda, urges adoption of safety measures by road users to avoid injuries and accidents. He says the visibility of commuters is affected during rain, especially the motorbike riders not wearing helmets. Therefore, it is strongly advised that car drivers do not come out on the roads unnecessarily in rain and the motorbike riders must wear raincoats and helmets.

Rainwater and roadblocks