Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Wide Road Do Not Mean Better Traffic

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This started on Twitter this morning, 20 May 2016. I tweeted something about courtesy and discipline on roads making for better traffic. And that wide roads make no difference at all.

Tweeple discuss this here

But let me add sense of responsibility to courtesy and discipline on the roads. My friends Moazzam (@MoazzamSalim) and Rizwan (@rizwarned) took exception to my assertion. Both of them seriously believe wide roads will make for better traffic. The argument went illogical when, in responding to my tweet about narrow streets in central London being happily unclogged – or largely so, Moazzam said something about population and vehicular density. As well as that, he said, there were not so many different types of vehicles in the West.

I cannot disagree there for I know my friend was referring to our animal drawn carts and etc. I again pointed out that the traffic in the West (and they have far more cars than we can imagine) keeps moving because everyone behaves with normal courtesy towards other road users. But neither Moazzam nor Rizwan were ready to take this argument.

What of the millions of motorcycles we have, asked Rizwan. Though it is hard to determine which is the bigger menace, the wagon driver or the motorcyclist, I admit I have a particular revulsion for the motorcyclist who seems to be evolving back into some species of rat: give him the smallest hole and he’ll stick his motorcycle into it. In the bargain he’ll dent or at least scratch your car and merrily go his way without an apology.

Motorcyclists incidentally bring back a childhood memory. About the year 1958, there was some work going on in the home and the men opened a sewer manhole. Out poured millions of cockroaches to scurry all over the spacious backyard. We had a riot stomping them to kingdom come. The completely ill-disciplined motorcyclists of Pakistani roads remind of that cockroach stampede!

But this was an aside. The Twitter argument went back and forth and got foolishly illogical with my two friends insisting that wide roads will ease traffic. Neither was willing to accept that our traffic problems are more because of lack of responsibility, discipline and courtesy for others. I responded by tweeting that even if we had a 4 km wide road with a few dozen lanes, the mess would remain unchanged.

Here’s why. The slowest poke going at 20 km/h will be in the fast lane. This is just like you so frequently meet with on the Motorway where morons tooling along at 100 km/h or less sit in the overtaking lane. No amount of flashing your light or even rudely blowing your horn has any effect on them. The cockroach motorcyclists will be all over the road endangering others paintwork and their lives weaving through the traffic as they are currently wont to do. The wagon, bus or truck driving yahoo who has never heard the words ‘discipline’ or ‘courtesy’ will weave through the several dozen lanes to obstruct traffic. And he knowing that with his huge vehicle he can crush even the most expensive car, he simply does not care what happens to others.

No matter how many thousands of beautiful trees we destroy – as the moronic rulers of Punjab have already done – to widen roads, the traffic will remain a mess. It will remain a mess unless we teach road users to be mindful of other road users. It will remain a mess as long as drivers thumb their noses at others and believe in the principle of ‘Get Out Of My Way. I’m Coming Through!’

For beginning, idiot motorcyclists who say they look paindu if their machine has rear view mirrors should be forced to have them on and bloody well use them. Right now, they weave through the traffic with nary a notion about the traffic behind them. We could also try to instil some sense of discipline and courtesy in sub-human minds of all drivers, especially those who wield public service vehicles.

And since we’ll be at it, we could at least also teach drivers the phrase ‘Right of Way’. That traffic entering a roundabout from the right enjoys the right of way. Since no one has a clue about this simple courtesy, we see these horrendous snarls at every single crossing and roundabout in Lahore. Drivers who should slow down and give way, forge ahead without looking right. Watching drivers in intersections, one gets a clear idea that no one has any notion of Right of Way.

Unless we begin with these low-cost endeavours, the billions of rupees going into road widening and the thousands of trees being lost to turn Lahore into hell will be to our detriment.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00,


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Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

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