|Home | Issues | The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 87, Tuesday, October 13, 2009|
It used to be a running joke among friends that the worsening traffic conditions would escalate to such a degree that one fine day, someone would take his or her car out of the garage and into the street, and that will be it. Complete gridlock; all cars will be boxed in on the roads with not an inch to manoeuvre. The cars will be left on the street by their owners, we might even solve the slum dwellers' crisis; they will have new homes all over the city. Imagine, people living inside the cars for a change.
The joke, recently, has ceased to be funny. Although it is improbable that things will deteriorate to such an extent, but the appalling state of congestion in our city has already reached boiling point.
Social factors aside, interminable traffic jams diminish the productivity of our office workers, as now even the harshest of bosses cannot with a clear conscience admonish an employee who is delayed by the congestion. In all likelihood, the bosses themselves are late in coming to the office because of the road wars.
And wars they are; anyone living in Dhaka would agree. No matter how nice a person is at home or in the office, on the roads they are all mercenaries, and it has come to the point where ordinary people can no longer be blamed. In a war perspective is everything, and everyone is right in his or her own eyes.
And so it is on Dhaka roads; one day you might be in a car swearing at rickshaws taking up all available space, poking their front wheels in front of your car just as you are about to move out of a jam, on another you may be in the rickshaw swearing at the car driver for picking on your much smaller, slower vehicle.
It is now too late to ask the general populace of motorists and rickshaw pullers to mend their ways; we have been shaped and set in our ways by the battle conditions we routinely experience and suffer under. The problem now demands a solution because we, as citizens of this country are being held hostage by this ridiculous state of affairs.
It is not as if the authorities are doing nothing, but even their efforts to solve the crisis lacks coordinated vision. A resident of Shantinagar, Alam has some qualms about the banning of rickshaws in most roads that connect to Bailey Road: “The banning of rickshaws may have helped with the traffic jams, but I can say from personal experience that it has increased suffering. If rickshaws are banned, there must be some alternative means of transport to compensate the passengers suddenly deprived of their regular mode of transport. Where are they? CNG auto-rickshaws are not much of an option because of the exorbitant fares they demand.”
It is now a common occurrence that a trip from Gulshan to Dhanmondi takes two hours. One cringes to think what happens to critical patients in an ambulance, or how their family members feel about the possibility that their loved one might be snatched away from them because of a traffic jam.
Why has it come to this? A traffic sergeant at the Kakoli junction points out the problems and offers some possible solutions: “The number of cars is increasing exponentially, so we have to build new roads. Dhaka has an abundance of roads connecting north and south; what we need to do is increase the amount of roads going east to west. Then there are the rail crossings, especially in places like Moghbazaar, Malibagh. There should be flyovers in these places, and not small ones like the one at Mohakhali, but more like the one in Khilgaon.
“Also, there should be a restriction on the number of cars. We now have some families owning four or five small cars. The Registrations Office could impose some restrictions that persuade families to buy just one large car.” On the wilful disregard for traffic laws, the sergeant said, “On these matters we see that people lack awareness, and this is across the board; educated people in Gulshan regularly run through red lights. We can counter this by increasing fines, and also the amount of traffic policemen on the streets. Managing the traffic is such an uphill task in itself that most of the time we cannot pull up a car for breaking laws.”
Dhaka roads and its vehicles resemble anarchy, and this anarchy has not been quashed by the authorities. It is an open secret that traffic lights are just decoration pieces dotting the thoroughfares. There are so many of us breaking the laws that those who do not will only fall behind in the race to get from A to B.
It is this lack of accountability on the part of the motorists and the traffic police that has nurtured the chaotic environment that is the Dhaka thoroughfare. If motorists were sure of a reprimand each time they broke a traffic law, not many would be transgressing the limits.
The solution has to come from the top. The authorities can do worse than to heed the words of the sergeant, someone who has direct experience of dealing with our traffic issues. Alternate means of transport have to be introduced with a coherent vision that takes into its scope the well-being of passengers throughout the city. Also, short-term changes like actually implementing existing traffic laws will have long-term benefits, as it will inculcate lawful habits among our motorists, which will hopefully create a tradition of lawfulness for years to come.
By the way
The raring debate- SPF or TPI?
The sun emits many different kinds of rays most of which are filtered out by the protective ozone layer of the Earth. But of the rays that penetrate this layer, the most harmful to the skin are UV or Utra Violet rays. These can be split in two types- UV A and UV B.
These rays cause a lot of damage, such as tanning due to UV A and sun burn due to UV B. Exposure to both these rays causes premature aging in the forms of winkling and extreme exposure in some cases may also lead to skin cancer. SPF is a measure of burn factor, which is affected by UV rays. Our (Indian and Bangladeshi) skin types do not, in general, get sunburn, but tan profusely. Therefore, SPF measure is not very relative to our skin.
For our type of skin, the most relevant measure of sun protection is tan protection, which measures the effect of UV A and UV B, and is calculated as TPI- Tan Protection Index. The TPI is therefore a measure of tan protection when evaluates against unprotected skin. The higher the TPI number, the better the efficiency of the product in providing tan protection.
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