Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology civil engineering professor and former director of BUET’s Accident Research Institute Hasib Mohammed Ahsan took time off to discuss with Manzur H Maswood, New Age staff correspondent, why road safety remains elusive in Bangladesh.
Hasib Mohammed Ahsan, known for his expertise in transport engineering, said road safety cannot be ensured in Bangladesh as mismanagement plagues traffic engineering, law enforcement and educating people about traffic discipline.
Hasib said any improvement of traffic system presupposes determining how a road would be used, for fast moving vehicles, as a feeder road to connect with the highway or as a regional road.
‘As different types of roads are designed to provide different types of services, we have to determine the exact service we want from a particular road,’ he said.
He said that traffic engineering of a particular road, what would be the enforcement guideline for it, and awareness or traffic sense to use the road would depend on the nature of the road.
‘But unfortunately, our highways can’t be called highways as they are used simultaneously by fast moving vehicles, slow-moving non-motorized vehicle and even pedestrians’, Hasib said.
Similarly, he said, city roads, link roads and regional roads lack their characteristics.
Hasib said Bangladesh being a populous country, its highways cannot be like the highways in the western countries that small populations.
‘So, in our context, the highways should have separate lanes for vehicles of separate speeds including pedestrians, bullock carts and other non-motorized transports,’ he said.
Hasib said pedestrians don’t get any priority ‘on our city roads as they should.’
Even the footpaths can’t be used by the pedestrians as they are always used by others, he said.
He said zebra crossings, foot over bridges and underpasses are not pedestrian friendly as they are not at the right locations.
He said city roads should be designed in Bangladesh keeping in mind the unavoidable need for rickshaws and other slow moving transports.
But roads must provide separate lanes for all sorts of transports with different speeds.
Hasib said pedestrians ought to get due priority on city streets and roads.
‘But the problem is we are making big budget flyovers contributing little to improving the chaotic traffic system paying little or no attention to keep the footpaths clean though negligible cost is involved,’ he said.
He also said, ‘everyone blames pedestrians without providing them with a uniform system to cross city roads or even use the sidewalks.
He said that the pedestrian is left to depend on their sheer luck or use presence of mind to use roads and remain alive.
Hasib said the drivers get reckless on the roads because of protection from powerful people they enjoy.
Hasib said the transport experts find it difficult to analyze accidents as the police never record the reasons why or how they had occurred.
He said in case of accidents, the police were required to fill in forms recording every possible detail of the accident.
‘But the police in this country leave the forms blank except recording vague causes like reckless driving or over speeding.
‘Such vague records of accidents prepared by the police makes it difficult if not impossible for traffic engineers to develop remedies,’ he said.