The city of traffic jams

2019-04-30 12:44

It's the city of traffic jams, with motorists complaining that faulty robots, bad roads, ongoing roadworks and unruly motorists are causing hours-long delays during peak hours.

Among problem areas identified by motorists are Chota Motala Road — which is “gridlocked” during peak hours — as well as College Road and Moses Mabhida Road, which are both under construction.

They said taxi drivers in particular were behaving badly on the roads, adding that they sometimes even drive in oncoming lanes to avoid sitting in traffic.

Motorists also bemoan the lack of traffic officers and pointsmen on busy roads.

Msunduzi Municipality’s spokesperson, Thobeka Mafumbatha, said a plan which includes a pilot project to deploy dozens of pointsmen to help regulate traffic and ease congestion at identified hotspots in the city is in the pipeline, but she did not give a time frame for when this will be rolled out.

Mafumbatha said the arrival of the pointsmen is expected to help the municipality to cope with the demands on the traffic department.

She said the traffic department is under pressure as accidents, incidents, escorts and marches depleted the number of traffic officers who can be deployed in the CBD. “However we try by all means to ensure that traffic officers are available to assist with the traffic flow,” Mafumbatha said.

She said the transportation planning department, which has a system that monitors traffic signals, is also currently monitoring the robot synchronisation at some intersections to determine if there is a need to change the timing of the traffic lights.

Paramedics, meanwhile, have also complained that motorists are using emergency lanes, which impedes their work.

Residents across the city have in recent weeks shared some of their traffic frustrations with The Witness.

Miyash Rampersadh said: “Mkondeni CBS Downes Road should have a traffic cop in the mornings to ensure steady a flow of traffic. Prince Alfred Street coming from Makro is a nightmare due to taxis driving in the oncoming lane, cutting in front of drivers and not giving a damn about the law.”

Said Sandra van Rooyen: “College Road is a nightmare. Taxis have created a few new lane, going up the wrong side of Park Road.”

Valerie Naicker said: “In Northdale, the traffic cops are standing at the wrong intersection ... Last week [during school holidays] the traffic flowed smoothly, this week it is a nightmare.”

Gregory Lawson said he could not see any traffic policing. “This has created an environment of total lawlessness. Taxis unfortunately are the main perpetrators, travelling on the wrong side of the road. Total disregard to traffic lights.”

“The horror of Alexandra Road and College Road every morning. People driving over verges, wrong way, wrong side of the road,” said Ashish Singh.

Thinus Joubert, who travels along Alexandra Road en route to drop children at school in College Road in the mornings, said taxis regularly push out of their lane and into the oncoming traffic and there is no visible policing.

He said he tried reporting the mayhem telephonically but was told he would have to personally go to the traffic department’s Washington Road headquarters.

While he understands that the traffic department is stretched, “occasionally they should make an effort”.

A Pietermaritzburg paramedic who asked not to be named said they have cars blocking the emergency lanes almost every time there is an accident on the freeway. “There have been times where scores of cars have blocked the emergency lane and cannot move so we end up having to walk ... to get to the scene with all our equipment. It causes a delay when getting to the patients and if we need to put someone in a stretcher, we have to consider whether that stretcher is going to fit between the cars in the emergency lane and the barrier.

“Then sometimes when we have the patient in the ambulance, we get parked in and have to wait until the congestion is cleared.”

He added: “I think people will only care if a friend or family member has been in an accident and the ambulance is blocked from reaching the scene because of the cars stacked in the emergency lane.”

The traffic department used to issue fines to people who blocked the emergency lane when paramedics submitted a photo of the car, he sad.

Now they had to open a case, he said, and prove that the person was in the emergency lane. “We have dash cams, but we have to prove that the driver would not move for us, and even then, the person might say he was listening to music loudly and did not hear or see us, or that they were forced into the emergency lane and cannot move.”

The Umgungundlovu Regional Taxi Council said taxi drivers were not entirely to blame for the lawlessness on the roads. “We witness private vehicles driving into oncoming traffic on a regular basis. The problem is the city doesn’t have sufficient traffic officers at the problematic intersections,” said chairperson Bheki Sokhela.

He said the traffic situation in Pietermaritzburg had reached a tipping point.

“We have met with Msunduzi traffic officials to try and come up with solutions for the problematic intersections,” he said.

Sokhela said they requested that at least two lanes be open during peak hour traffic on roads like Moses Mabhida Road, which is currently under construction.

Mafumbatha said the Msunduzi Municipality Integrated Rapid Public Transport Network (IRPTN) had implemented Phase 2 of the upgrade of Moses Mabhida Road.

The construction will continue for about two years.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  pietermaritzburg traffic
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