Despite increasing vigilance by traffic police, it is nigh impossible to discipline traffic on the streets of Dhaka, as pedestraisns continue their merry habit of jaywalking and drivers carry on with reckless driving. Road safety advocates and urban experts, however, still bat for continuous programmes like successive traffic weeks round the year because the mindset of commuters takes time to change. On January 15, volunteers from the Red Crescent, Bangladesh National Cadet Corps (BNCC) and scouts will work with traffic police at 57 check posts in Dhaka for two weeks to help people follow the traffic rules.
According to Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) sources, in spite of hefty fines and close monitoring, the scenario has remained unchanged across the city. Recently, the DMP has started filling case by recording video footage of unruly cars. At least 30 cases have been filed since January 15. In total, 38,494 cases were filed against motorcyclists alone. More than 17,000 cases have been filed for wrong turn of vehicles.
The Independent notes that ithe number of cases and amount of fined money during the traffic discipline programme is similar to the fined amount in the last 15 days prior to the start of the programme. After starting the traffic discipline programme, Dhaka faces intense traffic jam causing immense suffering to commuters.
But experts say that the problem lies in the behavior pattern of common people. Many people break the law in full knowledge and many do not even realise that they are doing something terribly wrong.
Talking to the Independent, Ilias Kanchan, chairman of Nirapod Sorok Chai (Nischa), said he found the Traffic Division’s initiatives very positive.
He, however, mentioned the importance of enacting the new Motor vehicles act. However, following the new set of increased traffic vigilance by law enforcers in the past two weeks, this correspondent recently visited the road between Kalyanpur and Technical, Asadgate to Khamarbari and Bijoy Sarani, Tejgaon and Farm gate around 11 am to 2 pm. Unauthorised parking at non-designated places is another problem. Four-wheelers were found parked on the footpaths along the road.
Commuters too were found standing on the road and waiting for buses at the busy intersection. The metro rail project and international trade fair are also contributing to unruly terrific. Owing to the trade fair, the areas from Mohakhali to Tejgaon as well as Agargaon to Shamoli faced intense traffic congestion. After the office time was over, the traffic congestion in the city increased further.
In Shamoli intersection, a long line of vehicles could be seen. Vehicles could not move as buses were stopped in the front of the intersection. However, there was no bus stoppage there. A stoppage sign is marked more than a hundred metres away. No Traffic sergeants were seen to control them.
Talking to The Independent, many commuters alleged that they cannot get their buses as many vehicles approach at the same time. Besides, owing to the metro rail project, the vehicles coming from Manik Mia Avenue are being turned around on Asadgate road.
Some buses have already changed their routes, creating more difficulties for Shabagh and Banglamotor bound commuters. However, no buses were seen to close their door before stoppage.
Aboard a bus from Mirpur technical to Farm gate, it was seen that the vehicle stopped at several places other than the designated bus stands, putting at risk both passengers who got down as well as passers-by who suddenly saw the bus stopped almost on their shoulders by the side of the road.
When asked about such stoppages, the helper of the bus of ’Welcome Poribahan’ came up with a simple reply: “I have nothing to do with it. If a passenger wants to get down at a place in between College gate and Shaymoli, I have to drop him/her there. Otherwise, he/she will stop taking our bus and switch to other transport lines because they will do it.”
Passengers who wait at the designated bus stoppages say buses seldom stop at the right place. “I had to run 50-60 metres and then fight with the others to get on the bus,” said Habibullah, an employee of a private company.
Following this, the traffic department has become more concerned about these issues. Awareness programmes are being carried out every day to make people and commuters more conscious. “It’s routine work to retain disciplines on roads. We are suing the transport workers if they violate any rules,” said Mofiz Ahmed, joint commissioner of traffic (South).
“Generally, the number of cases increases if there is a special programme. For that, special surveillance is conducted in the area concerned,” said the commissioner.
“We are now working to bring discipline to the transport sector. We are working on key issues. Discussions are being held with the departments concerned,” he added. He said they were hopeful that the change that has occurred due to special operations will continue.
“We are more concerned about the awareness of persons being sued,” he added. “All our officers have been told that the case against the offenders should make them realise their mistake. Such mistakes should not be repeated in future,” he noted.
Meanwhile, to earn a quick buck, a lot of young people are buying motorbikes, making the capital’s road a dangerous place. Amanullah Akib, a fourth-year student of a private university, told The Independent that he bought a bike to earn money through the ride-sharing service.
“One of my friends told me that I can easily earn up to Tk. 25,000 having a bike with a ride-sharing app,” said Akib, with whom this correspondent took a ride.
He has the license of being a trainee driver who is not allowed to ride on main road of the capital.
Like Akib, there are many riders in the capital, making city life more difficult. Every traffic signal line shows that a lot of bikers are waiting to get past the traffic light first.
Talking to the independent, Dr M Shafiq-Ur Rahman, an expert of transport and planning, said a proper system can be implemented in an experimental way, but making it work across Dhaka is likely to be complicated if the number of vehicles was not reduced.
“To implement the law, the Traffic Division and the authorities concerned must be stricter in dealing with all types of vehicles,” he added.