Port Harcourt is a city
affected by the menace of serious road traffic congestion. A lot of man hour loss, stress and other health challenges weighing on those living in the city and its environ and those who come to do business in the city, arising from this menace is enormous and unbearable. Many factors give rise to this problem. Some of the factors are:-
Indiscipline of motorists, inadequate road design, absence of efficient traffic distribution, use of unhealthy vehicles on the road, absence of functional digital traffic control lights and inappropriate location of corporate institutions and establishments.
Nigerians are people in a hurry. Impatience is one of our trade marks. Very many persons on the road are in a hurry and want to beat other road users to get to their destinations. Where that is not possible all will struggle to go through available space at the same time. Things do not work that way. We do not all go to bed at the same time and we do not all wake up from sleep at the same time.
So when on the road, why do we want to reach our destinations at the same time? Why do we behave as if we do not know that God made the dusk and the dawn to control the affairs of humanity, as to fit our plans into nature’s programme? Why do we abhor queueing and taking our own turns? Why do we prefer to and have more pleasure in jumping the than taking our turn in the traffic? If we curb the practice of jumping the queue while in the traffic, the traffic will flow easily. No matter how long the traffic is, everyone will go, where there is orderliness. So we must be civil and disciplined in the art of road use. We must learn to respect other road users to curb traffic congestion and hold-up on our roads. Pedestrians must be cautioned to cross at the designated points.
It is important to note that improper use of the highway contributes to traffic holdup and congestion. Highways are divided into high or fast speed lane, middle lane and slow speed lane. Many motorists do not know this and so do not observe the difference while driving. The high/fast speed lane is on the left side of the highway as the country maintains right wheel drive system, while slow lane is on the right side in a dual carriage way road. Most of our roads are single carriage way and do not have these features quite pronounced and our drivers are used to driving on single carriage way roads. Dual carriage ways normally have three lanes. There is middle lane which separates the high/fast speed lane and the slow speed lane. If a slow moving vehicle is on the fast lane, it is wrong and the vehicle could cause an accident.
Likewise, a fast moving vehicle must not go on the slow lane to avoid causing an accident. The middle lane in a three lanes road/highway could be used when the driver is contemplating to go fast or slow. When a motorist wants to pull or go out of the road it must be done from the slow lane. Wrong use of the road by the motorists and pedestrians is a major cause of accidents which contributes to traffic congestion/hold up on our roads.
All our roads have required service features but lack kerb for buses and taxis and lay byes for other motorists. The absence of kerb and lay byes make taxis and other motorists to convert pedestrian walkways into parks thus exposing pedestrians who are forced to use vehicle lanes to accidents. Apart from accidents, the use of vehicle lane by pedestrians and motorists cause holdup and traffic congestions because the motorists are forced to slow down to save lives.
Where the taxis and buses spare the pedestrian walkways, they convert part of the road lane to parks thus reducing the road space for traffic. This cause traffic holdup and congestion. Therefore, there must be provision of kerb and lay byes in our road designs to ensure efficient traffic flow on our road.
In order to reduce the number of vehicles on the major roads within Port Harcourt city and its environs, the commercial passenger vehicles should be zoned and restricted for operation within the zones they choose. The zone terminals can be linked to make interconnectivity possible for passengers wishing to continue their journey from one zone to another. The link of a zone to another will enable them feed each other. The zones are to have identifiable numbers and operators registered according to their options. The zone number must be ascribed on the vehicles operating within the zone and operators will limit their regular daily operation within their registered zone. Penalty such as fines could be imposed on vehicle operating outside their registered zone of operation. This step will reduce vehicles plying the major roads of the city and its environs.
There is need also to re-introduce bus routes within the city. This will checkmate the carefree use of all roads of the city by buses thus causing infringement of free traffic flow. The bus routes and bus stops should be clearly designated and visibly marked for easy identification. Traffic congestion within Port Harcourt city and environs will considerably reduce by redistribution of the traffic.
Many vehicles on our roads are not roadworthy. Allowing such vehicles to ply our city roads is dangerous to other road users. The Vehicles Inspection Officers (VIOs) should do their job of certifying vehicles’ roadworthiness. Commercial vehicles mostly fall short of roadworthiness. Very often they break down on sensitive and strategic parts of the roads, causing mayhem to other users of the roads, especially within the city.
This measure will help to reduce traffic problem in Port Harcourt and its environs.
The traffic lights help to enhance free traffic flow on the road within the city. It ensures more efficient traffic flow than traffic staff or officers who depend on their personal judgment in directing traffic movement. The necessity of traffic lights on our roads as a measure for the control of vehicle movements cannot be overemphasized. There is need to install digital traffic lights on every junction of the road within the city. Traffic wardens/officers should only be deployed to control the traffic on emergency situations on short term basis and to book drivers that beat the traffic light command for fines/prosecution. The unsuitability of traffic wardens in the control of the traffic is demonstrated in their frequent abandonment of the duty and chasing after perceived offenders and violators of their signals thus, leaving behind chaotic situation which arises from their absence at the material time. The traffic lights function for twenty-four hours when source of power is constant unlike traffic wardens/police who leave their beats often.
The traffic lights should not only be seen to be there at road junctions but should be functional all-round the hours. The functionality and availability of traffic lights will surely enhance orderly flow of traffic on our roads within the city and reduce traffic hold ups.
The lopsided distribution of sites or location of business establishments and institutions give rise to heavier vehicular movements to certain areas of the city than to other areas. The location of institutions and business establishments need to be considered as well as residential areas, with consideration of the traffic which the establishments will generate. This is the reason why urban and regional planners must cooperate with transport planners and transport managers when designing towns and cities.
The demand for movement to an area is determined by the type, number and nature of establishments and institutions located in the area. The anticipated volume of traffic will also determine the road network to service the area. The lopsided location of business institutions in Port Harcourt and its environs and unanticipated population explosion at present are also responsible for the current traffic congestion in the city.
Traffic problem in Port Harcourt poses serious challenges to the government and to the private sector. The solution calls for concerted effort. Some of the suggestions made above call for a traffic study of the city with a view to determining the zone, bus stops and routes. It also calls for public enlightenment on the use of roads and civility on the road. It calls for strict enforcement of traffic rules and order on the road by traffic enforcement and control officers. The police should stop checking vehicle particulars on the traffic. Vehicles should be made to pull out of the traffic when checks are necessary.
Obinna is a retired Permanent Secretary.