September 13, 2019 10:09 AM NPT
By: Isha Bista
Anyone who drives a car or rides a bike knows the frustrations of the road. Never mind the perpetual traffic jams and the chaos that ensues, it’s the general sense of indiscipline and lack of respect for one another that makes being out there on the road such a strenuous affair.
The motorists are screaming at one another, at the policemen/women, and at anyone who dares to cross their paths. Nobody lets another vehicle go past, lest they arrive at their destination two minutes late. It’s going to make a world of difference, those two minutes because we like to be punctual now, don’t we? And whatever happened to the ‘no horn’ rule? Because the rule wasn’t an absolute one, we use every excuse we get to put our hands on the horn and press with all our might till our anger dissipates.
I commute to work on a daily basis and I dread the half an hour it takes for me to reach office. I’m not only my worst self then, cursing and fuming, with the windows rolled up but I’m also at the receiving end of many stares, glares, and wild gestures. I’m a cautious driver and even though I stick to my lane, not many people have the patience for my sticking-to-the-speed-limit driving.
What make matters worse on the road are definitely the traffic police stationed at various junctions. I might sound presumptuous when I say they have been commanded to control traffic without any training whatsoever but you only need to take a look at what they are doing and how they themselves often run amok on the road to understand what I mean.
And turns out they aren’t very nice either. I haven’t had any altercations with them yet but I have heard (horror) stories from my friends about how they often misbehave, scold and shout at you, and misuse their power. At the Thapathali junction, a woman traffic police threatened to smash my friends’ car windows. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but she could have asked for the paperwork and slapped a fine but I don’t understand why she thinks she has been bestowed the power to smash windows.
And on top of it all, when my friend said she would go to the police headquarters to complain about the incident, she was challenged to do so and told, in so many words, that she didn’t care about her seniors. The incident was reported and the traffic police was reprimanded and authorities told my friend ‘strict action would be taken’.
But the thing is it shouldn’t have come to that. Traffic police who are given the ‘power’ to impose rules should be told not to break the code of conduct themselves, that they aren’t gods and goddesses whose words are final and that they too can be held accountable for their actions by the public. The problem is that a lot of traffic police who are out their ‘controlling’ traffic are really doing so according to their whims and fancies. There is a dire need to give traffic police intensive training about traffic management with a good dose of good manners and decorum thrown in the mix.
Another thing that is a cause of a lot of chaos on the road are the bulky concrete dividers that take up so much space and are actually huge traffic hazards. And they also have a tendency to randomly pop up at different places overnight. It’s almost as if someone snapped a finger and there they are!
For someone higher up this might have seemed like a good idea to deter motorists from cutting into the wrong lane but what they actually do in a city with mismanaged roads is make an already narrow lane even narrower. Huge concrete dividers can only work when there are big roads to divide. Here they are just taking up space where a two-bike lane could easily be set up.
The traffic cones aren’t any better at setting up proper lane demarcations either. These are often placed so haphazardly, tied together by ropes, that they look like the heavens sprinkled confetti for god’s birthday. In Kathmandu, unless the drivers themselves are educated and made aware about the need to stick to the correct lane, forcing them to do so with either boulders or bits of plastic will only lead to more chaos. Ever seen bikers trying to squeeze themselves between two concrete dividers to take a wrong turn when no one is looking? And if awareness doesn’t work, then imposing heavy fines if someone is caught driving on the wrong lane would definitely work. Nothing deters us Nepalis from wrongdoing as the threat of parting away with our hard earned money.
I’m also not just blaming the traffic police and those who make the rules for the circus that goes on out there. I realize we are equally to blame. All of us are in some sort of an undeclared competition and we would hate to come second. A little consideration would perhaps make commutes a lot more bearable but considerate is often the last thing we feel when we think we are being treated unfairly. And that’s almost always the case when we are behind the wheels. We all think we are great drivers and we could do nothing wrong while the other person doesn’t know the basics of driving and is breaking one rule after another.
There is a lot that needs to be worked on if our roads are to stop resembling a badly managed circus where each person is doing his own thing. But looking at the current situation where traffic police brandish neon lights like they are magic wands and motorists are training for Tour de France it looks like it’s going to be a long and hard journey.
The writer loves milk tea and cookies. She doesn’t shout when she is angry but you can tell by the color of her ears. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org