There’s no avoiding it. The number of vehicles will continue to spiral. Significant improvements to our pedestrian footpath network and public transport are many years down the line. As a result, people will continue to buy vehicles, and we can expect to spend longer times in traffic jams.
But our traffic can be better managed to have it flow smoother. There are examples of both good and bad traffic management.
The recent new turn-left lane below the Swimming Pool complex is one. It allows for vehicles seeking to turn left to exit early and avoid having to reach the roundabout and add to traffic there.
But examples of perplexing intersections outnumber our logical ones. For instance, the one below the Lungtenzampa bridge and the one above the Lungtenzampa bridge in front of the police gate, are haphazard designs that allow traffic to criss-cross opposite and same direction lanes therefore impeding the smooth flow of traffic.
Another problematic intersection is the one above the Taj Tashi hotel, where a zebra crossing has been placed in the path of vehicles climbing up the hill, and attempting to merge with Norzin lam traffic often resulting in Who Dares Wins scenarios between vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
Allowing adequate space for a vehicle to eventually merge with traffic has also become an important need for today. For instance, the fly over bridge in Chamzamtog abruptly joins the expressway causing traffic from one lane to stop. A longer space that allows merging would not stop traffic.
We have many engineers who were well exposed to designs outside the region. It would be perplexing if these are their designs. If not, then we must ask who designs these intersections and on what reasoning? Thimphu’s traffic has reached a point where amateurs cannot be given the responsibility to design our road systems.
With more traffic, driving culture also needs to evolve.
Our thinking that using the emergency lights gives us the right to park on the main road and impede traffic flow is outdated. One area where this occurs frequently is the main road besides the Bank of Bhutan Mothithang branch. Not only do drivers take the liberty to park on the main road, they impede traffic on a blind corner in the road.
There are other driving peculiarities that need to be discarded such as the old habit of taking a wide round turn. No where is this more apparent then the Royal Boulevard, where some drivers using the U-turns, either turn into the U-turn by moving to the outer lane and then cutting off the inner lane to U-turn.
An area where proper lane driving does not fail is where a concrete divider has been erected like on the road after the fuel pump in front of the police gate. Perhaps, more concrete dividers would discourage lane infringements in other places like in front of the hospital, where the markings on the road are not understood.
There is a need for more awareness on lane driving. Many who have travelled abroad and driven there now tend to drive in the inner lane and use the outer lane only to exit or drive slower than the prescribed speed limit, or to merge into to allow faster travelling vehicle to overtake. Then there are others who feel driving on the outer lane is for normal traffic and that the inner lane should be used only for overtaking. While the former makes more sense, there is still a need for uniformity and awareness.
While Bhutan’s traffic is comparatively much more ordered when compared to some regional countries, there is still an urgent need for a more professional management of our traffic to avoid it from disintegrating into chaos.