Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 3, Issue 59, Tuesday Ocotober 3, 2006














Traffic Smart- the Art

While the rest of the world is intimidated by terrorist attacks, Bangladesh has a much larger headache. It is terrified, petrified and mortified- by the very thought of traffic. During Ramadan, this fear is at its peak. So, this section of Lifestyle aims to offer some guidelines to make it easier for you to navigate through the nightmare.

Red Alert Zones:
These are the danger spots. If you happen to be in one of them, especially during the peak hours, to put it mildly, you would think that the gas chamber would have been a blessing! First off, there are the three Ms (the shortened version of "massacre") - Mouchak, Malibag, and Mogbazaar. The population density happens to be high there, and they are also a paradise for rickshaw parking! The Mouchak Market also attracts shoppers, which is another crucial factor.

Another place people are afraid of is the Sonargoan junction. Those who do manage to transcend the "jinxed junction" should by no means feel relieved. They must go face- with much valour- the second level of the game. If you decide to go on straight, there is the inevitable Panthopath traffic. People, especially the women, by their very nature love to shop. So, it is not a surprise that there is a problem with stationary traffic in front of the Bashundhara City Complex. If you decide to take a right turn from the Sonargoan junction, you have to combat the Farmgate jam.

In addition to the three Ms mentioned, there is also Motijhil, where the traffic blocks often extend all the way to Paltan. The spot, being a centre for offices and commercial buildings, is an utter mess in the office closing times. Other commercial areas include Gulshan and Dhanmondi. These two places should also be in your must-stay-away list. These are home to schools, both public and private. A few weeks into the Ramadan, during which the schools will be open, traffic obstruction in the inner streets and roads cannot be warded off.

The New Market and Nilkhet area would also be a difficult zone in these few weeks leading to Eid. People would be busy shopping for clothes, accessories, home stuff and kitchen utensils. The road connecting New Market and Gawsia would also be vulnerable to traffic jams, as the divider has been removed.

The Nightmare- Why?
Why this nightmare? Some of the reasons are rather obvious. The offices break up early during this month, and everyone rushes home for iftar. In this rush, people tend to forget their "traffic manners". Moreover, people are shopping early these days to "beat the crowd". Many shopping centres do not have adequate (and often none at all) parking space, forcing the customers to park on the roads.

The road network is also in an unflattering state. For a city to have its traffic running smoothly, at least 15 per cent of the total area needs to be composed of roads. Dhaka, unfortunately, has only 7 per cent of its area as roads. Even then, the existing roads are being dug up for reconstruction. In Bangla Motor, for instance, the footpaths have been turned over. Having no other alternatives, people are using the roads to walk on. Normally, a major road would be equipped with four lanes, but this has only two, which makes the situation worse. The onslaught of the heavy monsoon downpour has also made several roads hard to access.

The Timings
Around 2pm is the worse time. This is when the schools close. With students and parents happy to get over with the hassle for the day, they scurry home. Long unmoving lines are common in front of these schools.

3pm to 5pm is also bad, when work is officially over. Tired, miserable and wishing they could be home people drive whichever they like. Rickshaws, cars and minibuses know no lanes, no regulations. This is the time that aptly defines the word "chaos".

After 7pm is another dangerous time, satiated with their iftar, people make their way to the shopping malls.

The solution…
Traffic jams have become a full-fledged pain to the nation. On a closer inspection, it becomes apparent that everyone must work together to fight it- the battle is futile if only one party is working and the rest sit idle. We go on to blame the traffic police, but there are things we can do too as civilians. Unless people obey the law, drawing up new traffic codes and attempts by authorities to implement them will fail. Instead of crossing the streets or walking on the roads, the footpaths and the over-bridges must be used.

The local authority also should be responsible enough to pre-plan their road dig-up projects, so as not to hinder the traffic flow.

Md. Feroz Al Mozahid Khan, the DC Traffic South, stated: "We have sent many applications to the City Corporation to improve the quality of the roads and take steps to ensure a steady flow of traffic. Yes, it is very difficult indeed, but this time, we have appointed a larger volume of traffic surgeons in a wider number of locations." He hopes this would reduce the traffic pressures in the areas susceptible to traffic blockage.

By Shahmuddin Siddiky Saadi

Life is a traffic jam

My son's school starts at eight in the morning. From where I live it takes a little over 15 minutes to reach Dhanmondi. But I have to coax open the protesting sleepy eyes of my child before six in the morning so we can have a good head start half an hour later.

People ask with wonder why such an inhumanly early morning start when I live so close to the school. Although the distance from Wari to Dhanmondi is relatively short the traveling time seems to move in slow motion due to traffic jams. So early in the morning waking up my son and making him put on his shoes and clothes is like helping a drunk stand up straight. At times it is hardly enough to stop him from falling asleep on his breakfast. It's difficult enough for a grown person's mental operating system to load properly so early. Now imagine a young child whose mind isn't quite used to the rigours of a life as hectic as ours. He may not want to go to sleep at all at night but simply won't want to wake up either. Hence, it becomes more like steering a drunken bull to the market with a whip.

Of course, there are other tasks to be completed while making sure that he completes his grooming. There's preparing the school bag which can at times be heavy enough with books to make young children have old people's backaches. Preparing the lunch, water bottle and the subsequent cleaning up means there is more multitasking going on than any high tech executive with a laptop, bluetooth and whatnot gizmos. At least the executive does not have to worry about a kid who actually wants to walk through mud puddles instead of around it.

And then starts the ongoing wait in the traffic jams. Reaching the Science Lab and Shahbaagh junctions is like a repetitive nightmare. If only schooling could be done electronically over long distances. The best we can resort to right now is make use of the hour or so in the car by revising the days work with him. Of course, that will push you straight up to number one in the most-hated-being list for the day.

The best that can be done is to stare around at the other people who are staring around helplessly and hopelessly. Everyone is busy standing still in traffic. Busy and tense giving way to a promising future for future doctors who will have to deal with scores of tension disorder related cases. Oh yes, then there are all the buses, cars, scooters and other fossil fuel burning vehicles emitting their harmful gasses in a congested place. Future respiratory diseases among many others are evident. The doctors are the only ones to benefit from this if only they can reach their chambers in time.

Dhanmondi is a still called a residential area but doesn't look much different from most commercial zones till nighttime. Could be because all the houses have been either converted or rebuilt into schools, colleges, banks, NGOs, hospitals, boutiques, beauty parlous, shopping complexes and need I go on? It's a relatively small area with average width roads having to accommodate a lot of impatient drivers. Just one car going against the traffic can bring the entire street to a horn honking halt.

The story is no different when the school ends in the afternoon. The scores of schools in the area all end at the same time with hundreds of parents all wanting to hurry their wards back home for a good lunch and nap. But it is a better idea to try to take the food and siesta on the way home as it takes another long time during which entire novels can be written and edited.

The long journeys and the long school hours literally drain away the child's desire to have fun. Such tiring exercises continue for most of the week and although you may reach home and breathe a sigh of relief it is short lived. Tomorrow it starts all over again.

By Sultana Yasmin
Translated by Ehsanur Raza Ronny



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