17 November, 2017

Graphic Traffic

By Nishthar Idroos

Nishthar Idroos

Negotiating the adrenaline raising traffic down Galle Road in his compact Maruti car is routine for Ranjith Silva. Born and bred in Colombo never has Ranjith gone through such tension and stress whilst driving. The Sales Manager working for a Pharmaceutical company based in Slave Island Colombo 02 has been driving this route for almost ten years now. Getting to work on time every morning has become some sort of a challenge for him. Precious time lost in the road. He has to drop his wife at work and two kids in school. He has to leave early. This too had not contributed an any significant way to ensure a smoother drive. Ranjith has become a victim of his own psychology. Mere thought of the arduous commute triggers anxiety and stress in the 42-year-old father of three.

Traffic is one of the most common issues in big and small cities alike in the world. Every single attempt to provide a solution has only exacerbated the situation. I may be wrong on this. The continuous influx of vehicles which incidentally have experienced exponential growth year on year regardless of many tariff and non-tariff barriers. We are spending more precious hours in our vehicles. More so in the case of developing countries. Is this a healthy trend?

The Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. stated Americans added 1.2 vehicles – cars, trucks and buses – to the road for every person added to the population between 1980 and 2000. In that same period, total population rose by 24 percent, while the number of miles driven each year ballooned by 80 percent. And with Americans spending increasingly more time in their cars – on average, it’s now 1.5 hours a day – everyday driving stress can easily compound and take a real toll on overall health and happiness.

It will be quite interesting if someone undertakes a similar research for Sri Lanka and its roads with similar variables. How many hours does an average Sri Lankan motorist spend on the road? The attendant stresses and anxieties one goes through? The subject area is so extensive and expansive. A peripheral analysis will not engender justice. A complete holistic study must be made involving the realms of safe driving involving observing traffic signs and regulations, sensible and anticipatory driving, mental and physical fitness, psychological equanimity, adopted coping techniques, concentration skills. There are even issues like biology and micro-biology that are affected during driving.

An article that appeared in TIME Magazine some time ago summarized a list of impacts based on research from all over. It noted that a daily car commute can raise blood sugar, cholesterol, and depression risk.  They also mention drops in fitness and sleep quality.  But that isn’t even the worst of it.  A research analysis on how commuting affects well-being in UK said. “From the data analysis, it appears that commuters have lower life satisfaction, a lower sense that their daily activities are worthwhile, lower levels of happiness and higher anxiety on average than non-commuters.

Sri Lankan roads are notorious for their rapacious devouring of innocent pedestrians and bystanders in the most imbrued manner. Recklessly driving that infamous monster, disproportionate and asymmetric vis a vis Sri Lankan roads – the all steel and ubiquitous made in India Ashok Leyland. Sorry, I am bit of a Leylandophobic. Every CCTV captured accident involved this behemoth. Notably driven by impetuous, inexperienced and ignorant drivers whose pants don’t hold on to their waists. Chewing beetle or smoking silly and listening to legendary singer H R Jothipala’s “Jeewithe tharunakale

It’s said on average of 7.5 people die each day on our roads. This is as per the statistics of 2015. Its estimated 60 per cent of serious accidents are caused by single-vehicle accidents in which heavy vehicles travelling fast crash into a pedestrian or fixed object. There is something radically wrong here.

The traffic system in Colombo and the immediate suburbs are heavily tilted to the steel on wheels than to precious pedestrians who dangerously navigate our roads every single day with trepidation and jitters.

In Galle Road Kollupitiya I found it quite shocking, shameless and scandalous that only 15 seconds are given for pedestrians to cross the road. It was depressing to see a mother carrying an infant in one hand and dragging another with the other, hurriedly crossing the road in the most degrading and undignified manner. I certainly wouldn’t want to see my wife, sister or for that matter anyone involuntarily partaking in such indignities. In the meanwhile, three-wheelers, two-wheelers and imposing buses keep raising and accelerating on neutral gear. Some tooting, hinting for a speedier crossing from pedestrians. What effrontery?

It’s a trifle hilarious at pedestrian crossings in Colombo where there are no traffic lights. Pedestrians gather at both sides and numbers swell in no time. The extremely gentlemanly drivers keep passing without a single one giving way or stopping for pedestrians to cross. This happened to this writer at Maya Avenue junction recently. Since no one was doing anything this writer took a few steps and made the surrender posture with both arms up. Managed to stop the traffic. Soon all and sundry crossed, not a single soul thought it befitting to extend a small thank you.

In Ontario Canada where this writer lives, even in the remotest and unhabituated places traffic lights give a minimum of 30 seconds for pedestrians to cross. A further 10 seconds’ grace is given before it turns green on the other side. The system is absolutely pedestrian or people centric.

Another major hazard that’s easily observable on Galle road is that vehicles merging from by-roads to the Galle road do so without either slowing or stopping at the entry point. These weren’t isolated incidents but a distinct trend was observable. This writer was closely monitoring this phenomenon. The man, women, sarong Johnny and neck-tie executive behind the wheel, all of them had no concern whatsoever to pedestrians walking to the other side. They just wanted to move forward regardless. They come to the Galle road without any warning and try to merge the same way.

This writer is not ashamed to mention publicly that he passed Ontario Driving License in his third attempt. In the previous attempts, he failed not because he was a poor driver but due to a cursory lack of care vis a vis pedestrians.

Today he is a much better driver. He is so good that he just wouldn’t even dream of driving on Sri Lankan Roads.

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Latest comments

  • 7
    0

    Colombo needs rapid rail and air conditioned rapid bus PUBLIC TRANSPORT system as an URGENT DEVELOPMENT PRIORITY.
    Rapid rail and bus system should be integrated as in Singapore. The Minister of Transport should be sent to Singapore and Bangkok which has a Sky train to study them and formulate a policy.

    But there is no plan for efficient public transport – only hot aid from mega city h Chinese Emperor wanna be Pathala Champika or anyone else in Jarapalayana Govt.
    Pblic transport is environmentally friendly, less pollution but no one talks about it because there are very few Kick Backs to be had.

    So in Miracle of Modyas instead of INVESTMENT IN RAPID PUBLIC TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE we Asian Development Bank building more miles of highways being planned for more cars, and Ranils’ Volkswagon scam factory..

    The Japanese, EU and US are all in the car sales industry to grow their economies. Toyota funds the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to build highways in Sri Lanka, and ADB will keep mum about need for a Policy and infrastructure for PUBLIC TRANSPORT for less traffic congestion and pollution but will build more highways!

    This is the great DEVELOPMENT JOKE that is played in Miracle of Modyaas!

    • 2
      0

      Good points: Why do international aid donors who give unsolicited Development advise neglect PUBLIC TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE which is both energy efficient and less polluting that having so many cars on the road?!

      Maybe citizens groups should go to the China Infrastructure bank to build a sky train and rapid bus system in Colombo? This is much more important than building port city. Jarapalanaya has not policy or plan to address urgent development issues, but is ever willing to take funds to build white elephant infrastructure projects.

      Until there is a good PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEM with Rapid rail and bus service in Colombo, imports of cars for Politician should be banned, so too building highways should be banned.

    • 2
      0

      ADB has taken over Sri Lanka’s Independence Square in Colombo to advertise their MEGA deeds over 60 days, meanwhile the Chinese are having a show at the Arcades down the road!

      Japanese, Chinese, Americans, Indian all falling over to give useless AID and development assistance to corrupt Jarapalanaya govt. to enrich themselves..

      ADB dances to tune of Japanese owners and hence is building more highways to sell Toyotas in SL and get more money from TOyota! Forget about rapid PUBLIC transport in Colombo for another hundred years!

  • 2
    0

    Spot on article

    just 2 weeks ago lost a family member to a CTB bus in Colombo on an unlit main road also she had not used the crossing hence the bus fellow is going to get away with it,of course the road was carpeted and good which our drivers are unable to use properly hence speed like Damol Hill on an F1 track

    I have personalytravelled in buses private and CTB which were driven recklessly and in some cases the driver on the mobile phone!

    sometimes the pvt bus conductors egg the driver to race if they see another bus

    buses dont stop at halts but expect ppl to jump in and out

    somethings seriously wrong here and our authorities lack balls to tackle it

  • 2
    0

    I was on a private bus being driven at great speed. The driver stopped on a roundabout to pick up a passenegr!

    • 3
      0

      Some years ago, I had to take a bus to Negombo. It was nearly 8pm and the bus at the gas-pa stand quickly filled up. The driver got in, tucked his sarong, worshipped the twinkling Buddha on the dash board, slowly negotiated his way out of the bus stand, and just as he passed the old Technical College, he took off. I was in the Bhikku seat so I got a good view from just behind the driver. Dogs and people scattered as our behemoth sped towards FishTown. Slow drivers were bullied into giving way. Wattala, Mabole and Jaela passed in a blur.

      Just before we reached FishTown in record time, I asked the conductor “how did he do it?”…..”what are you talking, after sundown the drivers hit the ‘kudu’ then they drive better”

      I believe nothing has changed to this day.

      • 2
        0

        Very nice experience. So from now you can change the name of your country to KUDU LANKA.

  • 2
    0

    This is a timely write-up and a good one.First our traffic policemen have no idea what proper driving rules are, all they know is to hide and catch motorists for not stopping at pedestrian crossing or over taking on a single line. There needs to be lots of educating for motorists,pedestrians and for authorities.You get pedestrian crossing in a bend,or on to another road. Bus stands in junctions where few roads join in.
    Our Radio channels,TV rather than jabbering utter muck in the morning should start educating people. TV mafia shows nothing but crying women and video shows of Sri Lanka or evil overdressed Indian men and women conniving and plotting against each other.
    Lastly the roads of Sri Lanka is a Gold mine the Finance Minister should re-look at seriously.The highest annual death rate is from motor bikes.Charge them Rs.1500/ on the spot when they recklessly hit anyone trying to race and creeps through two vehicles.This is a good avenue to discipline us all.

  • 3
    7

    I am glad you draw attention to the ridiculously short time given to pedestrians to cross the road.

    To whom can we appeal to have this increased?

    • 9
      0

      Appeal to the PM as he has given you all short time to cross the roads and given his cohorts long time to drive in posh vehicles.

    • 1
      0

      Manel
      It’s worth installing pedestrian lights operated by pedestrians which has a camera that will not restrict traffic congestion. This means pedestrians have to wait a bit until the camera decides the length of triggering the time to stop the traffic without causing traffic tailback.

  • 13
    0

    The first and foremost thing that Sri lankans need is a potent dose of discipline in all manners. Before Sri lankans are taught good road discipline / manners, they must be taught to use their sacred ballot at election time in a manner that would elect honest, clean, educated politicians to good office, not amudey wearing bastards. Good manners, discipline, stems from good education and upbringing and Sri lanka as a country and people lacks that part of life.
    Time will come and time will go but sadly Sri lanka and its people will wallow in the deep dark pit of corruption, lethargy, rascism, religious bigotry, so on and so forth and continue to live in illiterate darkness.
    As a well known personality said just a few years after the gift of independance in 1948, ” the beautiful land will be systematically ruined and destroyed by the amudey wearing bastards who will come to power in the future”.

    Sad, very sad but very true.

    As Mr Miagi said ” no such thing as bad student, but only bad teacher”.

  • 7
    0

    Every driver on the road just shows what the mentality of Sri Lankans is today – No respect for human lives!

    Every pedestrian also shows what the mentality of Sri Lankans today – Not abiding by the (road) rules and they can walk, jaywalk the way they like. Even a healthy young man doesn’t cross the road faster when given a chance to, in a road where there is no pedestrian crossing to show some importance for others’ time as well.

    Policemen are very careful and will find faults as per the rule book if they feel the need of some extra cash!

    And this is how our Lanka runs on a daily basis! I see some discipline from those who drive cars – Not sure if this links to education

    • 1
      0

      Live for the moment! Couldn’t agree more!

  • 0
    0

    Imagine, of all the contributors to this chain, no one knows who is responsible for traffic lights!! I think it’s the CMC in Colombo and Pradeshiya Sabhas. This must also be sub-contracted to the installers to maintain. Asto regulatory maintenance, only God knows who does what!

    In civilised countries these issues are of critical legal importance and are not dealt with haphazardly. Here, if some one dies, the Minister in charge will feign concern and do some cosmetic change to escape responsibility.

    The irony is that we collectively vote for these idiots. How can the educated run a country, when their Ministers are a bunch of crooks and idiots?

  • 2
    0

    Must improve public transport, even install overhead and if possible underground monorail systems just as in KL.
    In Kandy which is so congested must open the road by the Maligawa,never allow any ventures to be built where the old prison was but make that area with a recreational park with many trees.Politicans will be bound to turn that area to corrupt commission based venture. They never bother to ask the residence or the tax payers for their opinion. This is the arrogance of our third world corrupt politicians.

  • 2
    0

    Nishthar Idroos:

    Sri lanka is a mess, uninhabitable until we get right politicians.

    Now, they are like Leeches and can notbe removed becuse they are used to free everything for nothing.

    • 0
      5

      how dare you call my mother Lanka uninhabitable. So why don’t you move back to India ? Don’t stay here and bitch about mother country

      • 3
        0

        The person concerned is not telling you what is false, he is telling you the bare faced truth. Learn to accept the truth as a man without bitching others for your damn faults. Your land is very blessed and beautiful accept for the fact that it is inhabited by span cloth wearing vampires who are sucking your blood day and day out.
        This makes it uninhabitable for clean, honest, God fearing, hard working, simple minded folk.
        So instead of bitching others go out and clean up the filth, and by doing so you will be doing your mankind a favor.

  • 1
    0

    How many are driving half-blind with Driving Licences given on condition that they wear glasses while driving, but do not do so, must be at least 10 to 20 percent.
    No driver of buses, lorries or three wheelers, ever wears glasses.

    How many are driving half drunk, may be more.

  • 0
    0

    Has the govt pondered why most of the drivers are incompetent behind the wheel or handlebars?
    Short answer: They have obtained their DL by bribing the examiners.
    The worst of these offenders are the trishaw drivers. I suggest that all the trishaw drivers who obtained their DL over the last 10 yrs be examined again. (at govt expense to be fair).
    However get some examiners down on contract from the UK or Germany, where driving is very disciplined.
    Secondly since the trishaws are mainly carrying passengers for a fee, the drivers mental and psychological states should be examined as well. Our good doctors would be able to prepare such a test.
    The costs of this exercise to the govt would be a fraction of cost compared to the hospitalisation costs, deaths of our valued citizens, repairs and time lost.
    Next extend this process to the Bus drivers.

  • 1
    0

    Manel Fonseka Be happy,The Govt of Sri Lanka – Thrice Visited by Lord Buddha -had accepted a contract to reduce the world population.The trial are being conducted in this much blessed island.You will not have to worry for long.Get prepared to see your maker.

  • 1
    0

    though our traffic laws are good on paper they are not implemented

    our traffic cops are god only at catching private cars crossing the double white lines and say ‘sir this is dangerous driving and need to be taken to court and then come down and give a charge sheet’!

    buses and trishaws break every possible law and the cops turn a blind eye to them

    in Sri lanka lives dont seem to matter at all

    • 1
      0

      Peace Lover,

      Good point! Indeed, in Sri Lanka it is OTHER peoples lives that don’t matter.

      Our manners, compassion, kindness, etc are all for use WITHIN our own family circle.Other lives don’t matter. We shrug our shoulders and say “pau” that is “their karma”

      Everybody else on the road is a non-person. So we drive without consideration for others, whether pedestrian or other drivers. The already horrendous carnage will continue until people, and those responsible for keeping law and order on roads, finally see the light. Do not expect that anytime soo!

    • 2
      0

      They ignore VIP cars and their own cars violating the traffic rules.

  • 3
    0

    DIG Traffic & your Team – you are the cause of all trafic problems in the city as you have no idea of traffic management.

    • 0
      0

      Sorry they are Sinhalese.

  • 4
    0

    Hand the matter to Pujitha our one of a kind, sui generis, IG of P ! He will do every thing without harming anything pronto on receiving a phone call.Who said our dearly beloved Police does not act fast?

  • 0
    0

    I would like to thank Mr. Idroos for highlighting this tragic situation that exists on SL roads. I am a traffic engineer with over 35 years of experience in traffic management and road safety. It breaks my heart to see what is happening on the roads in SL when the solutions for saving lives are fairly obvious. My own father was struck down and killed while crossing the Galle Road in Mount Lavinia, by a van that was driven on the wrong side of the road. Over the years I have had many conversations with colleagues who knew politicians, professionals and academics in SL on how to improve this situation. I do not know who is leading the charge in SL on making roads safer. To whatever organization is leading this effort here’s my two cents.

    In my opinion, the solution lies in a two pronged approach – Education and Enforcement.

    There needs to be a highly focused approach using media to educate and inform ALL road users aimed at modifying their road behavior towards minimizing road risk. This is not an easy task and may take more than a few years before positive results are seen.

    Enforcement – First the current road regulations and how they are being applied must be examined to ensure that road traffic rules themselves do not create additional risk to vulnerable road users – pedestrians and bicyclists. If this condition exists it must be eliminated by modifying how rules are applied to produce a fair set of rules that provides protection for vulnerable road users.

    This effort could be helped by recruiting road safety experts with a SL background from around the globe (I would help), as that could minimize political interference.

  • 0
    0

    Companies and organisations should devise methods of using the internet and advanced communication techniques to foster ‘work from home concepts’. Lot of the normal work can be done from home.This will lead to reduction in institutional costs.

    Even shopping and banking can be done online. I estimate that more than 50% of work can be done from home. Even Education can be done online. Physical presence at work place can be limited to 3-4 days a week.

    Could help greatly to improve productivity and reduce wasted time and energy and lead to improved quality of life. Reduce on fossil fuels, transport costs etc. Greater reach at the same cost.This will possibly be the scenario of the future.

  • 0
    0

    Good responses to the issue in discussion. Thanks Mr. Idroos for raising it. However the discussion has not focused on the most important aspects. That is Spatial Planning, Development of Infrastructure for Non-agricultural Human Settlements and Planning and Development of Integrated Transport Infrastructure.

    In regard to Spatial Planning the lead role is supposed to be played by the National Physical Planning Department. They did the job in 2007 and are in the process of revising it after 10-years. What has the National Physical Plan of 2007 achieved during 2007-2017? The UDA was created in 1978. All areas governed by MCs and UCs

    After Indo-Lanka Accord we got another structure for governance of the country: Provincial Councils. All local governments within respective provinces were brought under PCs. When you go through the concurrent and delegated lists, the PCs appear to be more powerful in economic development. Alas! After 30-years of existence of Provincial Councils we have 1.3 million 3-wheeler drivers and 800,000 security guards. School leavers with a higher levels of education still flock to Colombo Region in search of jobs and there are buses starting from all hamlets in the country and travelling to “Colombo” 24*7*365. The sectors of the economy which depend on manual labour now rely on labourers from India and it has been estimated that during the last harvesting season nearly 100,000 Indians had been working in agricultural settlements from Vavuniya to Hambantota. Another 20,000 are said to be working in the construction projects.

    Several local universities now have Engineering Faculties and a few offers Degree/PG Degree Level Courses in Transport Planning and Logistics. The Dons in these fields get assignments from the government or Foreign Funding Agencies to prepare plans for development of Integrated Transport. Only outcome of those studies and plans, which the Policy Makers know is by 2020 the average speed on roads in Colombo and suburbs would be 6-km/hour. And the solutions they propose and implement focus only on Road Transport by using private vehicles.

    • 0
      0

      Sorry. The second para is corrected.

      “In regard to Spatial Planning the lead role is supposed to be played by the National Physical Planning Department. They did the job in 2007 and are in the process of revising it after 10-years. What has the National Physical Plan of 2007 achieved during 2007-2017? The UDA was created in 1978. All areas governed by MCs and UCs were declared as “areas suitable for urban development. These LGAs Non-agricultural settlements or service centers. Legislation for MCs and UCs primarily recognize that MCs and UCs have powers for provision for public amenities. Today the status has been relegated to scavengers because all powers for providing electricity and water have been centralized, powers for spatial planning vested with those LAs under Housing & Town Improvement Ordinance, is centralized in the UDA and powers for providing local transport services are vested with Provincial Road Transport Authorities.”

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