City’s traffic nightmare

2019-02-27 06:00
PHOTO: FILEVehicles jump red traffic lights on Chief Albert Luthuli and Langalibalele.

PHOTO: FILEVehicles jump red traffic lights on Chief Albert Luthuli and Langalibalele.

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FLARED tempers, angry confrontations and blaring hooters. This is the reality that frustrated motorists in the northern areas are faced with when commuting to and from work daily.

Motorists are fed-up with the notorious peak-hour traffic bottlenecks and they want the municipality to outline a plan of action to alleviate the congestion.

Northdale is the most congested area in the city as many commuters who live there use their private vehicles to get into the city centre and outskirts.

“I leave home at about 6.40 am and only get to work at about 7.50 am, even though I start work at 7.30 am,” said Elisha Dasarath.

Dasarath lives in Northdale and works in Mkondeni. “The timing of the traffic light changes seems to have altered, and cars tend to drive in the oncoming lanes to get to the front of the roads that lead into Chota Motala. So the lawlessness of the drivers also holds things up.

“It is such a schlepgetting to work and the situation is the same in the evening when people are returning home from work.”

Between 6 am and 6 pm, hundreds of cars moving at a snail’s pace queue in Chota Motala (Old Greytown) Road.

The extreme backlog also affects nearby roads that lead into Chota Motala Road, such as Mysore Road and Allandale Drive.

In 2017, Pietermaritzburg was ranked among the cities with the worst traffic congestion in South Africa.

According to a study by transportation analytics firm Inrix, Pietermaritzburg was ranked fifth out of nine cities in South Africa with the worst traffic congestion, with an average person spending 19,8 hours a year stuck in traffic.

The Inrix 2016 Traffic Scorecard analysed traffic congestion in 1 064 cities in 38 countries. Pietermaritzburg ranked 384 out of the 1 064 cities worldwide.

Cape Town was ranked first in SA, with an average person spending 49,1 hours a year stuck in traffic, with Johannesburg ranked second, Durban third and Pretoria forth.

Frustrated motorists said that coming from Northdale, the roads have frequent traffic-light outages and are plagued by unruly motorists and taxi drivers who sometimes drive into oncoming traffic.

Motorists believe a lack of policing allows the public to ignore traffic laws with impunity.

But Msunduzi Municipality said traffic officers are deployed in Northdale to assist with the flow of traffic.

Ntobeko Ngcobo, acting municipal spokesperson, said the transportation planning department, which has a system that monitors traffic signals, is now monitoring the Northdale area to determine if there is a need to change the traffic lights’ timing.

Ngcobo said the municipality assigns officers to busy intersections to help traffic flow during peak hours.

She said car ownership is growing every month, therefore building more roads will not be a complete solution as those roads will also get congested.

“Experience has proved that the best solution [to beat traffic congestion] is public transport and other measures such as travelling in groups. The bus rapid transport system will be rolled out in phases,” she said.

Ngcobo said various demands placed on the traffic department such as accidents, escorts and protests, deplete the number of officers who can be deployed at intersections. “These constraints change on a daily basis,” she said.

“It should also be noted that traffic officers also fall ill, get injured on duty and go on leave. The municipality tries by all means to ensure that traffic officers are available to assist with the flow,” Ngcobo added.

Another motorist said it takes her more than an hour to get from her home in Allandale to work in Scottsville.

“At least one traffic light is out once a week. They have all not worked properly for some months now.”

She said it would be unrealistic for the City to try to post traffic officers at each intersection.

Instead, she said, driver behaviour needs to change, and that could happen if the traffic authorities used a small number of roving units to police “all types of traffic intersection infringements” and issued fines immediately.

The Witness reported last year that a glitch was to blame for the malfunctioning of the traffic lights along Chota Motala Road, but Msunduzi did not respond yesterday to a query on the latest batch of concerns.

Other motorists described their frustrations driving on Chota Motala Road, saying that Msunduzi should deploy traffic officers to help deal with the heavy traffic.

Verona Moodley said: “Whichever road you take you still get stuck. Every day I sit for an hour in traffic just to get to work — we are late for work almost every day.”

“Where are the traffic officers?” asked Narena Reddy. “Queues are on Samana Road, Plymouth Road and Allandale Drive. People are not adhering to the rules of the road.”

Variksha Sivenandan said: “We are already forking out so much for petrol and now we are not reaching work on time. Something needs to be done; can traffic cops be on the roads to stop all unruly driving?”

Krishenchund Ramsaran said: “I leave at least 10 minutes earlier than usual to travel from Northdale to Willowton Road. Traffic is worse than last year November.”

Frustrated motorist Gerald Govender, who wrote a letter this week to the provincial transport department imploring officials to take action, said: “The taxi drivers are always driving recklessly, especially in Manchester Road, and disregarding other road users.”

Govender said it takes motorists more than an hour just to travel five kilometres. “It’s becoming very stressful for road users and we need to do something to make our roads safer,” he said.

Another frustrated motorist, Verona Moodley, said whichever road you take coming out of Northdale, you still get stuck.

“Every day I sit for an hour in traffic just to get to work; mornings and afternoons are the same. Besides our cars getting damaged, and petrol getting finished, we are late for work almost every second day.”

Rishaal Sahadew said the roads network in Pietermaritzburg ran out of capacity a long time ago.

“It is in dire need of road network improvements to bolster the capacity of the network. Something needs to be done asap — no more excuses,” said Sahadew.

SHABEER Essack said taxi drivers do not abide by the rules.

“There is a lack of policing. They just go through red lights, stop wherever they want to and drive in the oncoming lane to skip the queues.

Kogilan Padayachee said: “Many people seem to think they are the only ones who need to get to work. They jump the line and cut in front of the line and this causes a backup where others now have to sit longer in traffic. Taxis are another huge problem. People do not follow the traffic rules.

Bheki Sokhela, the Umgungundlovu Regional Taxi Council chairperson, said they always implore taxi drivers not to purposefully block intersections, to obey traffic regulations and to show courtesy to other road users.

Sokhela admitted that sometimes their drivers are at fault.

“Our approach is to use the Hlokomela Operation inspectorate to monitor various problem areas on a regular basis and to work closely with traffic services to ensure that issues are dealt with speedily and that our drivers are driving as they should.”

He said the public can phone their offices with the details of any transgressions, and should provide the taxi number, time and location.

IRPTN preparations frustrations for Edendale and Imbali commuters.

The widening of Imbali Crossing and road maintance along Moses Mabhida Road as part of the preparations for the bus rapid transport system, also left motorists who travel along that route frustrated.

Lungile Duma said it took her hours to get to town in the morning from Imbali.

Ngcobo said the integrated Rapid Public Transport Network (IRPTN) is currently implementing Phase 2 of the Upgrade of Moses Mabhida Road.

“A plan was developed to assist with the traffic accommodation. Traffic officers are on always duty at key affected intersections throughout the implementation of the traffic plan.”

This will continue for the duration of construction, which is approximately two years.

TEXT BOX

The number of reported incidents of road rage has been on the increase over the past few years. Road rage has become a major threat to safe driving and is being investigated by the Mrc-Unisa Crime, Violence and Injury Lead Programme together with the Accident Research Centre at the University of Natal.

According to the Automobile Association (AA), road rage has been described by Sally Davies, a clinical psychologist, as a social problem that appears to be increasing all over the world along with traffic congestion and levels of frustration on roads.

Road rage occurs when people who are already vulnerable to aggressive outbursts are led to express their rage and - more critically - direct it towards total strangers.

Davies said that from behind the wheel, it is so easy to personalize relationships on the road.

“We find ourselves in a position of power and safety, free to insult other drivers verbally, make moves that restrict or obstruct them, make aggressive gestures with hands, flash our lights, sound our horns, or otherwise act out fantasies of being “in charge” - as if we had been appointed Road Monitor,” said Davies.

She said there appears to be various reasons for extreme rage.

“Some people who have a prior history of ‘blowing their top’ might have mental disorders, assaulting others or destroying property owing to rage. There are also other antisocial personalities, those who abuse drugs and alcohol or just your everyday motorist who is psychologically ripe for road rage.”

Davies said motorists have a responsibility and numerous opportunities to cool the emotional temperature on the roads.

“Every small act of road courtesy, of giving way, a smile or gracious ‘thank you’ wave, making positive eye contact before you join a line, contributes to harmony.”

She said defensive driving is more than just a mental attitude and there are specific techniques that might assist the motorist in avoiding road rage and also steps to be taken when falling victim to such an attack.

SIDE BAR

According to the Automobile Association of South Africa, this is how you can avoid peak traffic :

Don’t travel from 7-9 am and from 4-6 pm

Plan ahead and schedule commitments accordingly

Find a different route that is less congested

Check traffic reports before you depart

Invest in a GPS or App that gives live traffic updates

Use public transport if

Consider other modes of transport such as a motorcycle, bicycle or scooter

Move closer to your place of employment

Work flexi time or work from home if possible

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