Opinion

Follow traffic rules to avoid jam

By Amargira James Kadanya

Just like any other modern-day city, Juba is not exceptional of certain traits and features that actually make up specifically a city in Sub-Saharan Africa, such as the heavy presence of motorcycles on the roads owing to their ability to easily shuttle through the city.

The traffic on the roads is mostly composed of motorcycles, commonly known as ‘boda-bodas’, tricycles identified as ‘rickshaws’, mid-sized public vans, heavy cargo trucks and last but not least other various private vehicles of different brands and sizes. My point of concern is not the total number of traffic on the roads, but rather the wrong way of doing things by road users, as well as ill traits that have become common and normal in the city.

First of all, South Sudan subscribes to the Right-hand traffic, (RHT) system of traffic flow according to the internationally accepted Rule of the road. What does this mean? All vehicles used in the country are supposed to have the steering wheel on the left of the vehicle, which directly translates to Left-hand drive, (LHD). But to much of my disappointment, this is not the case in real life because many of the cars are a direct opposite of the required criteria to allow easy flow of traffic in the city.

When South Sudan attained independence from Sudan in 2011, the country straight away chose to follow the RHT system, even when her neighboring countries such as Uganda and Kenya were using the Left-hand traffic system. This has had serious implications of the road and traffic system in the country. With the business sector relying more and more on the East African supply chain, particularly the heavy influx of right-handed cars into the country; many of the motorists are not aware of the actual system to use while on the road. That’s the very first challenge affecting the city’s growing vehicle numbers. Coupled with the incomplete tarmacking of numerous roads in various parts of the city, motorists have developed a habit of lane switching from right to left and vice versa, in-order to avoid the bad parts of the road. In the due process of switching lanes in heavy traffic flow, accidents can easily be caused putting road users in danger, including the pedestrians.

In my view and perspective, a number of issues have collectively affected the organized flow of traffic in Juba. With the use of RHD cars on roads designed to cater forRight-hand traffic, being the number one challenge, others include the absence of zebra crossings on busy streets to allow pedestrians easily cross the road, humps to regulate over-speeding motorists and last but not least the malfunctional traffic lights that would assist in regulating heavy traffic. When all the above-mentioned challenges react with each other, an alarming traffic situation is created and in the long run favors one cluster of road users, the motorists and cyclists leaving pedestrians and other cyclists at the former’s mercy and sympathy.

Critically observing the traffic flow on Juba’s busiest roads entailed a few observations I made while shuttling through the city on a boda. Number one; there was a clear absence of clear road signs to direct motorists traversing through various roundabouts. Most appeared to be following a definite way of doing things already inscribed in their minds, which would be lethal with first time motorists who don’t know how things are done. Secondly, the absence of clearly demarcated lane signs made it difficult for me to identify which routes would lead to different locations along the busy junctions in Hai Malakia, if not for the big blue colored billboard. With almost all the motorists knowing already what to do and how things are conducted on the roads, any mistakes while navigating along the lanes and junctions could easily cause accidents.

Another common trait among motorcyclists is the habit of overtaking large sized vehicles on the road, which is not right, but acceptable due to time saving reasons. This ought to be prohibited along busy roads to mitigate the negative implications incase of any collisions. Talking of the traffic in Juba is incomplete without shading more light on the public transport system that has been influenced greatly by its sister systems in East Africa. A larger chunk of public vans and taxis are RHD which means that the exit door lies on the left of the vehicle, when exiting the van; a passenger is exposed to accidents since he/she is dropped off from the side of the road exposing the individual to incoming traffic, which at most times tend to over speed. The absence of designated pickup points further exposes more passengers to harm on the roads.

The poor parking habits along busy roads and the large buildings have greatly reduced parking spaces, forcing the already busy lanes to accommodate more traffic than they should. This as well chews up more space meant for pedestrians to foot. When tackling a specific challenge affecting South Sudan as a whole, it is important to align solutions with the population size in the particular area. Juba as a whole is comprised of a total population of less than a half million people, which means that with properly calculated and well strategized solutions, mending the bad patches within the traffic system in the city wouldn’t be a hurdle for policy and decision makers.

First of all, proper legislation is my perceived solution to any problem affecting any society. When people are subjected to stringent laws and regulations, the ability to solve a problem becomes easier. Number one, with the regulated importation of RHD cars into the country, more motorists will adapt to the RHT system. Secondly, the clear demarcation of roads and junctions, roundabouts and lanes with road signs will sensitize motorists and other road users in general on how to use the roads all together whilst respecting each other. Last but not least, is the regulation of the motorcycle and public transport industry in order streamline their operations and create order and harmony within the sectors.

The writer is reachable via this mobile phone: 0926055155

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