Road courtesy is about acts of kindness on the road, letting people cross the zebra crossings, using lights properly and letting others join the road. That said, we seem to be an impatient lot and often don’t offer acts of kindness, but why?
Jude: Impatience is a very big issue for our drivers. Usually when our reporters ask people in the My Wheels section of this magazine, most of them say Ugandan drivers are impatient. It is like they are always running late. For instance, we have all been in a situation where a driver on the opposite side is indicating, asking to be given way so that he or she can join the road. Unfortunately such people are usually ignored and this creates a pile-up of cars behind this person yet a few seconds would help.
Paul: There is a need to build proper infrastructure where the light turns green for the other person and red for you. But the other reason is good morals.
Mustafa: Moral is a heavy word here.
Paul: Okay, moral is not the right word. Courtesy is the word. The culture of road courtesy is lacking in this country. I do not know whether or not this can be traced to the driving schools. This can also be traced in other areas of service delivery say boarding a bus. People jostle to get in yet in other societies passengers line up. We need to let the weak, the elderly in first, in Uganda, this rarely happens.
Jude: You mentioned traffic lights but does this have anything to do with lights?
Paul: When pedestrians are crossing, you should have something that stops them, that is why I mentioned infrastructure. Look at the Post Office zebra crossing, instead of allowing people to cross, motorists instead compete with them or do not allow them to cross. Here, we lack infrastructure and courtesy.
Jude: I have actually heard people say that you are most likely to be knocked at a Zebra crossing in Uganda than any other road section.
Mustafa: Human nature is sort of a historical accident. You are mentioning a number of fundamental issues especially with our society. This has a lot to do with people’s upbringing because courtesy is when you feel compassion for the other person and let them go since you will also one day be in a similar situation. But because it is a historical accident I will continue saying that sometimes you need to be assertive in the way you drive. If you are indicating and want to join a junction and think the other person will feel sorry for you, you are going to be there forever.
Jude: It is not about the other person feeling sorry for you but how long it takes. It takes a few seconds.
Mustafa: Exactly, but not everyone thinks like that. So how do you deal with that? There are some places in this city where you just cannot go. There is a time I passed the Owino side. I was in the middle of the road with taxis on either side. One taxi driver asked what I was doing there (downtown).
Jude: Whenever I am in the city, there are some places I just don’t go to be it a weekend or not. Even on some Sundays there is heavy traffic. Places such as near Owino, Namirembe road, Nakivubo Mews, near the New Taxi Park, from Kikuubo side going up Luwum street then above the old taxi park-these are no-go areas.
Mustafa: People need to draw a distinction between assertive and aggressive driving. The taxi drivers are aggressive. They always want to bully you. But there are people who are assertive and see that you really want to join and they will stop. If you don’t show the desire to join the road, people won’t let you.
Jude: It is unfortunate but I will say this. I don’t give space to taxi drivers.
Paul: Ah, you are the people (says it sarcastically) without kindness.
Jude: They are aggressive, they do double parking and seconds after joining the road, a passenger wants to alight so the taxi turns again.
Paul: Let’s introduce another factor-the ego!
Mustafa: But you see Jude, it is also about the mindset. When I am driving in town and I look at taxi drivers, I don’t even mind them. I know that is how they operate, that is generally the nature of their jobs. A guy will have to stop, stop, stop, you can imagine how many stops he will do say from Nakawa up to the traffic lights at the yard. If he gets in before me (on the road), I let him be. I don’t bother them, if I beat him to it, it is okay. I don’t struggle with a decision. For you it is a bit of ego. I hear people complaining about boda boda guys, me I just ignore them.
Jude: But they join the road from all directions and you may hit them.
Mustafa: I don’t care, I move on. If you don’t move on, you will get upset.