Traffic jams and traffic policemen

There are no shortages of writing about traffic jams in the city. The media is seen awash with reports, suggestions, expert opinion, etc., on traffic jams. The same range from ivory tower recommendations of building elevated expressways, underground trains, circular waterways around the city and so on. Yet others seem to like to persuade with prescriptions like banning car sale–immediately– to reduce congestion from too many vehicles congesting limited road spaces or launching a massive car hunt to find and take off the roads all kinds of old vehicles. Nobody can ask the forwarders of such ideas to be tight lipped. But these types of advocacies to chop off the head as a cure for headache are sure to be only found ridiculous to ones who my take same time out to sensibly think over the issues of traffic jams.
What is more harmful is that the torrents of high-flung thoughts on sorting out Dhaka’s maddening traffic are only helping to distract attention from the main perpetrators of the jams : the traffic policemen who, instead of working to ease the jams, would be found doing just the opposite on proper examination. Thus, all should be giving a service in respect of bringing about some relief from the situation by speaking with a single voice and loudly enough to expose the failings of the traffic managers instead of adding more and more to a motley of high sounding new ideas for getting rid of jams. No one will object to the ideas since their implementation on the medium and long terms will make traffic movement easier for the increased number of road users of the city in the future. But for now or in the short term, the emphasis needs to be only on better traffic policing. If this need is fulfilled, then a great deal of the present traffic management related agonies can dissipate in no time.
One only has to look at how the traffic policemen are mocking, as if , the commuters all the time. Some time ago they declared their new rules that henceforth they would give up their hand signaling and start getting the services of automatic signaling lights for regulating the traffic specially at intersections. This order was coupled with further instructions that the roads would be divided into four lanes for the express movement of a particular type of vehicle in each of these demarcated paths. The moves were welcome since experiences proved that traffic policemen abused the system of hand signaling by holding up traffic for too long most of the time. The demarcation of paths for faster and slower moving vehicles such as between motor cars and rickshaws was also necessary to stop tangles from forming as the slower moving vehicles blocked the faster ones.
But something in theory is one thing while its practice is another in the context of Bangladesh . This writer has been outraged too many times during his travels to different destinations in the city during the last couple of months. He has noted hardly any relationship between what things the traffic wing of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) are asking the people to do as a way of heeding traffic rules and what the traffic policemen actually do to enforce these rules. For example, this writer recently during rush hours was held up by a traffic sergeant with his hand signaling at the Paltan intersection when under the new rules in force he should have been held up by traffic lights which were functioning. The more quixotic was the sergeant at last signaling the vehicles to cross over to the other side though the signaling devices was showing red . Besides, at that intersection no sign was visible that different categories of vehicles were on separate paths earmarked for them. So, whatever happened to the rules that the state run Bangladesh Television (BTV) blares out to its audiences all the time these days to obey the new traffic regulations ? In this case, there was no question of commuters going by the regulations since the ones who should enforce the regulations were most blatantly violating the same.
And this is not what this writer confronts only now and then in the city. It is a typical scene of traffic mismanagement to be seen everywhere in the city although the traffic managers maintain a pretension of applying the rules which they say are not paying dividends due to people’s non cooperation. But even a fool can get this insight after some days of observation in different parts of the city that people on the whole are more than eager to cooperate. Why the regulations are not working can be so transparently traced to their enforcers hardly doing anything on a regular basis to make them work.
It is a huge surprise that ones at the top in DMP’s traffic wing are not taking any note of such abnormalities in the behavior of traffic policemen at field levels and not taking corrective actions. If they remain unconcerned, it is the media’s responsibility as a whole to give very focused coverage to this issue of the traffic managers betraying their own words or policies.


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