Numerous initiatives to control the escalating traffic congestion in Dhaka have fallen flat.
Regulations like the reversible lane and the use of tire spikes which had been implemented in 2009, did not last more than two weeks. In 2012, Finance Minister AMA Muhith introduced the idea of forcing vehicles users to carpool, in his budget speech in parliament, but it was not subsequently implemented.
The carpooling system, which is widely popular globally as a deterrent to traffic congestion, is an arrangement between people to make a regular journey in a single vehicle, typically with each person taking turns to drive the others. Through carpooling, travel expenses are reduced, as is traffic.
In his speech, Muhith said: “In order to ease traffic congestion, automobiles should not be allowed to ply the city roads unless three passengers travel together. Otherwise, extra toll should be imposed.”
“I believe if we can properly enforce traffic rules and introduce road pricing, traffic congestion will not only be reduced, additional resources will be generated for road maintenance,” he had added.
When approached by the Dhaka Tribune regarding the traffic ills plaguing the city currently, Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary MAN Siddique said: “At present, we are not planning to implement any carpooling law, but in future we might limit the number of cars used by each family.”
Several officials whom this correspondent spoke to, however, expressed hope that the government would soon be implementing a rehabilitation program which was recommended back in December 2016 by a sub-committee formed by the Standing Committee on Ministry of Home Affairs.
As per the recommendation, instead of strict punishments for those evading traffic laws, especially reckless drivers who are either uneducated or less educated on traffic laws, the government should detain the law evaders and provide them with lessons on traffic regulations and laws, beside driving lessons, with the aim to lower or eradicate unlawful driving.
“Dhaka Metropolitan Police should establish a training centre in Dhaka where drivers who break traffic rules could be given driving lessons and taught about traffic laws and regulations. They should also receive counseling sessions. The centre should be operational from 9:00am to 5:00pm, seven days a week,” states the recommendation.
In agreement with the recommendation, DMP Traffic Joint Commissioner Mosle Uddin said: “If our drivers and citizens are not aware about traffic rules, any newly implemented traffic regulation cannot be successful.”
The head of the sub-committee which provided the recommendation, Abu Sayeed Al Mahmood, told the Dhaka Tribune that the suggested rule was not exceptional to Bangladesh as the US also had a similar rule in place.
Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Malik Samity Secretary General Khandaker Enayetullah, however, disagreed with the plan. He felt that training law evaders was an unrealistic plan for our country and is bound to fail.
“Most of the drivers evade traffic laws, so it is not possible to select drivers for training. To ensure discipline on the roads, drivers need overall training,” he explained.
In 2009, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) introduced a reversible lane system on VIP road, Mirpur road and the Mohakhali-Tongi road to stop drivers from switching lanes to avoid road congestion and accidents. It also set 12 check posts in different locations in the city to monitor traffic law evasion and fine law breakers Tk1,000.
Tire spikes were also installed on Hare Road to prevent vehicular movement in the wrong direction.
Not only did the reversible lane rule not last more than two weeks, when the tire spikes punctured the tires of several cars belonging to influential people, the DMP was forced to desist from using tire spikes as well.