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What is with the traffic lights and police officers?

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Traffic lights at the Jinja Road intersection aka Yard. They control traffic to and from Jinja, Kololo, Bugolobi and to Industrial Area, Mukwano, Yusuf Lule Road and the main city centre past Kitgum House. Photo by ISMAIL KEZAALA  



Posted  Thursday, January 16   2014 at  02:00

In Summary

Whether one has a car or not, we have all experienced what goes on at traffic lights sections. Today, we look into nasty scenarios involving boda boda riders, police officers taking over traffic lights’ duties, why we need to keep to certain lanes and offer what we think are good alternatives to the traffic mess in Kampala.

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Jude: Why do people choose wrong lanes then fidget their way out when the lights turn green. Imagine you are coming from Garden City side and you are heading towards Namuwongo, sixth or Seventh Street but you are in the lane that is meant for those going to the city centre past Kitgum house. So when the lights release these motorists and you are ahead of them, they start hooting at you. Here you are, (in the lane of those hooting) waiting for the lights for the lane on your left.

Mustafa: The punishment for being in the wrong lane means you follow what the lights say, in such a case, not to delay or annoy the motorists behind you, you go on and turn to the Kitgum House side although your destination is towards Namuwongo.

Paul: The other issue I see here is that it is important to choose your lane quickly. Sometimes, when you do not do that, you can get boxed onto the edge.

Jude: I often see people switch lanes and this is annoying, because at times they can scratch your bumper and scrape off some paint or “soil it” with a different shade of paint.

Paul: Choosing early and sticking to your side helps, sometimes when you do not someone can box you into a situation whereby you are close to the lane going towards Jinja Road on the extreme left.

Jude: There are times when you are in the right lane but someone is impatiently hooting.

Mustafa:Yeah, this happens a lot especially with taxi drivers. They use specific routes quite often so they know that perhaps in the next five or so seconds, the lights will turn green, so he starts hooting at you impatiently. He starts moving even before the lights turn green, so he goes on a hooting spree. That aside, the bigger issue for me is do our lights work? In the morning when there is a rush hour, the traffic officers take over.

Jude:That is my biggest worry. Sometimes they help, but at times they worsen the situation.

Paul:I think whenever they intervene they cause more delays because the lights are programmed to release vehicles at certain intervals.

Jude:The lights are timed, unlike the officers.

Paul:They are timed to avoid a buildup of traffic. But when the officers intervene, they do it manually and actually increase on the buildup because the officers depend on their judgment which is sometimes wrong.

Mustafa: It happens because of the way the traffic is set up. You find that at some stage of the day, there is a lot of traffic coming from a particular section say from Nakawa side towards the city centre. The officers feel that you guys coming from Garden City are fewer so you can do with a little waiting. In such scenarios, the timed lights are useless. It usually happens from 5pm onwards on Entebbe road towards Clock Tower.
In other countries, the person in the control room turns the lights red and green depending on the way he sees the traffic flow. But what we have here, when there is a heavy build up, the motorists coming from Industrial Area towards Mukwano heading to Entebbe Road end up in a lock-up, while those going towards Garden City and others coming from there all end up in a lock-up.

Paul: Actually what happens in the UK is that they programed lights to study the volume of traffic and then change the colours from green to red or amber appropriately.

Mustafa: We need that here.

Jude: I was actually impressed with the lights in South Africa. When they sense (or is it someone in the control room), that there is less traffic and yet they had turned red, they turn green within seconds and release you. Back home, the Entebbe road situation has forced some of us to intentionally avoid that route. I talked to a senior traffic officer and he told me that the reason they “delay” motorists coming from Nakivubo side (Ben Kiwanuka Street) /Shoprite especially in the evenings is because motorists leaving the city or those coming from Entebbe side and joining the city are usually for lack of a better phrase “more important” motorists such as ministers or even the President.

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