A large number of pedestrians, walking through the busy Sonargaon intersection in the capital, obstruct the normal flow of traffic. Though there is an underpass [not in the frame] nearby, these pedestrians carefully ignore it. The photo was taken around 4:30pm yesterday. Photo: Firoz Ahmed
As the clock nears 3:00pm, hundreds of commuters at the city's Sonargaon intersection compete with each other to make their way home before iftar.
They care little about traffic rules, contributing to long tailbacks at the bustling crossroads of the city.
Desperate to cross the roundabout, thousands of cars, buses, motorcycles and bicycles make the duties of policemen difficult.
Private university student Fazle Rabbi along with many other commuters was standing on the road yesterday afternoon to catch a Mirpur-bound bus.
Another photo of Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue shows the underpass is not so far from the Sonargaon intersection. Even so, people jaywalk to cross the intersection and obstruct the movement of vehicles. Thus the traffic congestion intensifies. The photo was taken around 2:00pm yesterday. Photo: Sk Enamul Haq
Asked why he was standing on the road instead of the pavement, he said, “Buses stop here even though they are not supposed to.”
Rabbi had been waiting there for about 45 minutes. Some jampacked Mirpur-bound buses passed him by, but he could not board any of them. Some commuters tried to grasp the door handles of the buses, but only a few of them succeeded.
Talking to this newspaper, traffic inspector Khademul Islam said, “People are waiting here for buses to reach home before iftar. We can't drive them away.”
“We had repeatedly asked the city corporation authorities to have a bus stop in the area, but in vain,” he added.
Commuters come out on Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue in droves after offices recess at 3:30pm. Ten additional buses of Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) are supposed to ply the road to deal with the extra pressure of commuters during Ramadan.
A double-decker BRTC bus stopped at the roundabout around 4:00pm to take and set down passengers. The rest of the road was blocked by cars from Bashundhara City shopping mall, which would either go straight towards the Sonargaon hotel or turn to the right towards Banglamotor.
A traffic sergeant was watching the disorder nonchalantly until the traffic inspector and another sergeant came running from the other side of the road, drawing the former's attention to the situation.
The sergeant then removed a parked motorcycle from the road and approached a microbus parked on the wrong side of the road, only to be rebuked by the passenger, who claimed himself to be an ex-police official.
Later, the sergeant offered an apology and allowed the ex-cop's vehicle to cross to the other side.
Vehicles on the east-west route at the Sonargaon intersection have to wait for around 10 to 20 minutes to cross the area as VIPs' vehicles on the north-south route get priority.
The automatic traffic signal lights cannot be followed at the intersection due to the abnormal rush of vehicles. Rather, traffic here is controlled manually, mentioned Khademul.
“As the north-south route is a VIP road, we have to keep it free from tailbacks to ensure easy movement of VIPs,” he noted.
In the meantime, he received a wireless message to keep the road free for smooth passage of the communication minister's motorcade that would cross the area shortly.
Usually, 12 to 15 cops maintain traffic at the signal in a shift of eight hours. But during Ramadan, the enforcement has been boosted to 31, with twelve traffic constables, 12 ansars, five sergeants, a traffic inspector and a senior ASP of police.
Prof Shamsul Haque of civil engineering department at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) said as the pressure of vehicles is higher than the capacity of the Sonargaon intersection, a grade separation system (overpass or underpass) could be introduced there.
But since no additional land was kept along the road for its future expansion, there is no scope for implementing the grade separation system in the area, he added.
The roundabout there should be demolished and a traffic signaling system similar to that of the Gulshan-1 intersection should be introduced, suggested the Buet teacher.
He also recommended operating more public transport vehicles on the road instead of small vehicles to increase the operational capacity of the road by 10 percent.