Saturday, November 17, 2007

Red Green Orange

The first set of traffic lights in town takes some getting used to. What do the lights mean? How do they work? What are cars supposed to do? We take them for granted, or curse them when we get too many reds in the 22 sets in the journey to work.

Arusha, with a population of 400,000, got its first set of traffic lights just last month. The Arusha Times reports on the wonder and confusion they created.

Like a gospel convention, thousands of Arushans every evening since October 9 have been attending the Sanawari intersection to witness what they believe to be a marvel of technology and Tanzania Road Authority's (Tanroad) "criminal negligence."

It appears that lights were installed at only three of the four aspects of the intersection, leaving cars entering from the fourth side to do what they will. There’s a recipe for confusion! A taxi driver commented:

What they have done is unbelievable. The traffic jam now goes about a kilometre each direction. Pedestrians and drivers are scared of being knocked down. What kind of technology is this?

In addition, there have been some problems getting the sequence right. There are times when all lights go red and all movement stops. Suddenly, they all go green and the whole intersection becomes chaotic.

An irate bus driver commented:

They have eyes but they do not see. If there are any engineers in the Municipal Council or Tanroads, which school did they attend? They should be charged with criminal negligence.

They are playing with people's lives. Had it not been for Traffic policemen who have been intervening, all day long, this junction would have been a pool of human blood.

For others however, the biggest problem of the traffic control lights is that they have been placed too close to two bus stands, a taxi docking area and a push cart station on the Sanawari road.

As if to put Tanroads to shame, pedestrians and drivers have catalogued an array of errors and that have been the dominant topic in Arusha for the past one week.

Like officialdom around the world, Arusha officals are passing the buck. The Municipal Council says Tanroads is responsible, and Tanroads says the relevant person is out of town.

In the mean time, Arusha locals have flocked in their thousands to stand and wonder at the operation of the marvellous new traffic lights. Drivers, pedestrians and even some of the traffic police men saw the lights as a mesmerising puzzle. "It is now green, in a few seconds it will be yellowish and then red and cars will stop," an elated man was heard telling scores of people who were just about to cross the road.

There's lots of local colour in this account of the first set of traffic lights in Arusha. I bet it's been a hot topic at the School of St Jude, in the playground and in the staffroom. I wonder how many of the St Jude's buses use that intersection?

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