How to tackle traffic gridlocks in developing countries

Posted on February 23, 2014 07:26 am

As the number of car on our roads keep increasing, traffic snarl-ups have become part of driving experiences. There are so many would be traffic problem solvers but few have managed to bring any tentative lasting solution anywhere in the world. When I attended World Mobile Congress in Barcelona in 2009, I was shocked to learn that traffic gridlock starts at 245am all the way to 11am. The biggest reason for failure to tackle traffic centipede is most government failure to provide equal space for residents who do not own cars. Those who have traveled to African and Asian countries would agree with me that few roads have been built with pedestrians in mind, school children, cyclists or even people with disabilities. In Australia, the federal and stage governments made it mandatory to contractors to provide equal space for those dividing the roads by half and for non-motorized transportation. In United States of America, the government made it a standard requirement to build wide, covered sidewalks, gardens, and all-weather bike lanes same as most European countries whose roads cater for the motorized public and private transportation. For decades, government have failed to listen to non motorized population that forms the majority of road users and that’s why 80% of roads in the world do not cater for such groups. The argument is that it costs more to build such expansive highways but I find it hard to grasp the reasoning of those in charge, who will not act even when statistics show that more than a quarter of deaths on our roads worldwide are caused by non motorized road users.

In 2012, a study was carried out in East African region where it was established that 90% of East Africans don’t own cars yet they are overwhelmed by the 5% who own or ride vehicles. This 9o% of citizens should compel the East African Community governments to provide them part of the road for walking, cycling and any mode of non-motorized transport. Tanzania easily has much better designed and well-built roads in the region and all roads built over the past few years in the country have catered for the non-motorized population. There is need for government departments mandated to build and maintain transport infrastructures to be mindful of the non-motorized and transform the road system to factor in persons who have no motor vehicles. Obsession with cars is part of 21st century mentality that owning or driving a car is sign of good life a culture that originated from United Sates after the second World War. However, the last time I was in United States of America was suffering from traffic gridlock and congestion that was a rarity when I was studying there a decade and half ago.  A South African road expert working with an international organization told me in 2012 that no matter how many roads and highways African governments build, the number of vehicles getting to the roads will always overrun them and the alternative solution for African countries is to embrace railway transport and expand roads to cater for non-motorized group.

Contador Harrison