April 9, 2012 By: Nirmal
The streets in Kathmandu always seem busy. It seems like there is constant traffic. The roads are used by motorcyclists, cyclists, taxis, micros, buses, tempos, laborers, runners, pedestrians and cows. Ok, let's spare the cows from this article but you get the idea.
So when you are on the road, who has the right of way? Should we have a motorcycle or at least a bicycle lane? Is expansion of the roads enough to curb the vehicles on the streets? What can we change in our behavior to avoid creating chaos in the roads? Questions to ponder upon.
I look at the traffic in Kathmandu's streets and roads as a calm chaos. There seems to be so much happening at the same time but no one is panicking or creating hysteria. There are a few outbursts here and there like a pedestrian being angry at a motorcyclist, a tempo driver yelling at a micro bus driver, motorcyclists screaming at the pedestrians etc. Amidst this chaotic scene, I find it amazing how we easily move about and navigate towards our destinations. There is no collective screaming or yelling but only small bursts of individual agony and frustration.
The police as I see it do their very best to control the crowd. However, their gestures and work are made complicated every day by the throngs of people who unintentionally (or intentionally) don't pay that much attention. I think the traffic police officers have one of the toughest jobs in the country. They play an important role in managing the daily traffic at their posts but get very little credit or acknowledgement for the work that they do. So I have the utmost sympathy for them (when they try their best to do the job without abusing their authority).
So, if the police officers do their best to control the traffic and the people do not rush to cross the streets, it would be good for all of us. We would all get to our destinations quickly and safely. I know this is so much easier said than done but we can change some parts of our behavior. I suggested to a friend of mine to start a Rent-A-Motorbike business so we would have less motorbikes on the road and less congestion. I also believe that a motorbike or bicycle lane is extremely necessary in the capital. I believe the road leading from Koteswore to Surya Vinayak (approximately 18km) was supposed to have a bicycle lane but it did not work out that way. Expanding the roads is crucial to accommodate the increasing amount of vehicles on the road. But equally important is us maintaining those roads and keeping them clean.
The question of who is right when you are on the street depends on the circumstances you are in. Do you mind waiting a few minutes so the taxi passes through or are you in a rush to get home? What's more important, your own safety or getting injured for rushing? Does blowing your bike or car horn repeatedly make you feel better? Do you want to get in an argument with someone for a small issue? Do you have more authority on the road if you are on a vehicle?
What are your thoughts?