Traffic Tension

2015-06-03 11:10
Early morning traffic chaos in Mayor’s Walk.

Early morning traffic chaos in Mayor’s Walk. (Ian Carbutt)

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RUSH hour? Anyone trying to commute through the main feeder roads in Prestbury knows that rushing is the last thing one can do there at those times.

The Prestbury traffic problem needs attention soon, as frustrations mount and traffic moves at a snail’s pace.

Residents Ellen Cobb and Bronwyn Stoffberg said that mornings are a real problem for them.

They described the way that motorists drive down the centre island in Zwartkop Road as “very dangerous”.

Cobb and Stoffberg turn from Stott Road into Bridge Road across the inbound traffic flow, but because of the traffic chaos and congestion, they are often unable to turn because the traffic is stationary in Mayor’s Walk.

“When the traffic car or officer is visible, this problem is not as severe. Their presence is very erratic. Traffic lights would ease this problem. I have heard that the guy who is there every morning is only there to assist pedestrians crossing,” said Cobb.

Ward councillor Glenn McArthur said the long-term solution would be to realign Mayor’s Walk and Zwartkop Road. “There is space available along both of these streets in order to do so and add in extra lanes together with traffic islands or other traffic-calming options.”

He said the short-term solution is, firstly, to train and manage the pointsmen and women better.

“Msunduzi Municipality has a habit of employing and training up staff who do not necessarily come with a work ethic, much less the required skills.”

McArthur believes that the prosecution of errant drivers will also help the traffic chaos there. “The currently employed trained staff also do not have a record of enforcing the law in the area.

“Bad law enforcement leads to acceptance that there is no law, to the extent that people regard taking the law into their own hands as the only solution. This then becomes the norm. When one then later tries to enforce the law, one has already lost the initiative and with it the support of the residents. It then takes major manpower resources, time and enforcement to instil law and order again. Normally, Msunduzi simply doesn’t have the political will to do that.”

No prosecutions

He said that at a recent CPF meeting it was conceded that there is no record of prosecutions of related traffic infringements in the Mayor’s Walk-Zwartkop Road area and Stott Road and Morcom Road area over the past six months.

Trish Collocott, the chairperson of the ratepayers’ association, said the reasons for the congestion there are related to the opening up of a new route from Edendale via Morcom Road and “a huge amount of traffic is now joining the residents of the hill”.

“I believe ... it has caused an increased flow day and night. Apart from this, I guess that many people are now using private cars to go to work, too, and not public transport. We have also had a huge increase in high-density living on Morcom Road over the past few years. “I have counted four new blocks of flats in the lower area, but the increased flow from higher than the railway bridge does not belong to these flats.”

She said she has asked the municipality to consider widening Morcom Road at the bottom “so we can have a left-hand lane and one that goes straight to Neville Road. I have also asked them to widen Mayor’s Walk and to speed up the flow through the intersection at Winston Road where our main problem begins. I am told that this is a possibility sometime in the future.

“Residents up the hill find it difficult to enter the traffic flow. The traffic department has given us a traffic controller for the entry into Mayor’s Walk, but this person appears to be on duty only every second week.”

She said a lot of people drive contraflow to traffic on Morcom Road trying to overtake the line of traffic. “When the traffic is stuck right up Morcom Road, the taxis overtake us down the grass verge and down the wrong side of the road. What amazes me is how fast the people drive up the road, knowing that they could meet an oncoming car.

“We have no other way to get off the hill other than Stott Road or Morcom Road.

“Road rage is a daily emotion. It gets me when we have people taking the triangle island at the bottom of Morcom/Beverly and pushing into all of us who have sat patiently in the queue. Not only that, but when people coming down Neville Road from Signal Hill/Napierville come along Laffan and into our line, as for them it is only about three cars that they have to wait for to get into the flow. It is much better than waiting for three traffic light changes at the Botanic Gardens. Never mind that we have already sat in Morcom Road for 10 minutes.”

Tubby Climpson, chairperson of the Prestbury CPF, said the times between 7 am to 8 am, and in the afternoons between 4.30 pm and 5.30 pm, are the periods of worst congestion.

“The taxi drivers are particularly irresponsible by trying to overtake the queue in the afternoon by racing up the feeder road adjacent to Spar and then expecting to be let into the traffic stream further on. On the other side of the main road, they routinely drive along the feeder road adjacent to Kyle’s Supermarket towards the Botanic Gardens against the one-way traffic sign. In the morning when coming down Morcom Road, they will overtake the traffic queue and travel along the wrong side of the road and then push into the queue, also on the wrong side of the road, into Zwartkop Road/Mayor’s Walk. This practice seems to have lessened since the appearance of a traffic person to assist at that point.”

Where’s the policing?

Climpson said the solution could lie in proper policing by the municipality.

“At present, apart from the odd provision of traffic officials — [I’m] not sure if they are actual traffic police or cadets — the traffic police are simply not in evidence. An examination of possible alternative routes by any traffic experts ... for a solution — perhaps upgrading and widening the road from the old prison to the connection to Morcom Road could be explored — perhaps the Morcom Road taxi traffic would find this route easier.”

He feels the area is not being properly policed and that this holds true for the entire city.

“Moving violations, shooting red traffic lights, are frequently the case. At our CPF meetings we are always informed about the lack of staff — almost a skeleton staff by my perception — who man the traffic police department. Law enforcement by the traffic department is in fact a joke. Whatever happened to the sight of traffic officers carrying out their duties on motorcycles? Mayor’s Walk is not immune to these shortcomings.”

Asked how he thought the area could be policed better he said the answer is simple. “Stop the tail wagging the dog, employ enough properly trained and educated traffic police, without fear or favour ... Promote those who have completed the required courses and give them the authority to run a disciplined organisation. The few traffic police who have been able to attend our CPF meetings appear to be somewhat dispirited with regard to the hierarchy in the system and lack of equipment (eg, vehicles was an issue). These are my perceptions and I would love to be proved wrong.”

Manners

He said drivers could help the situation by employing simple manners and courtesy, which would go a long way to helping. “Alternative routes and leaving earlier in the morning and returning perhaps later in the evening will help.” He said the large majority of drivers are courteous and have manners, but it is “the cowboy class of driver that needs to be policed!”

NQOBILE Madonda, acting manager: marketing and communications at Msunduzi Municipality, said the budget has been preapproved for a traffic impact and preliminary design for Morcom Road in the next financial year.

“This study will cover all areas that feed to Morcom Road and will determine the interventions that need to be put in place in order to resolve the traffic problems (road widening, installation of traffic signals, etc.). This is medium to long term.

“For the short term, as a mitigation measure to the situation, pointsmen have been allocated at critical intersections to control traffic during peak hours. Public safety (traffic) endeavours to assist as much as possible when manpower is available.

“On those days we are absent, it is due to the available manpower being deployed in more priority locations, such as school crossing points and or defective traffic signals on major routes. It must be borne in mind our attendance to accidents and other complaints in and around the city require our services.

“Due to manpower and financial constraints [overtime], policing is not done daily on these routes. However, in the new financial year, these matters will be addressed.”

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