The retractable spike strip installed on Hare Road in Dhaka yesterday to prevent motorists from driving on the wrong side of the road. Photo: Anisur Rahman
The police installed retractable spike strips on Hare Road in the capital yesterday as part of a trial to see if such devices work in preventing vehicles from taking the wrong side of the road.
However, just an hour after its inauguration, the device malfunctioned leading to several vehicles getting their tyres shredded.
Around noon, The Daily Star correspondent observed that several of the spikes stopped retracting when vehicles were rightfully going over them.
At one point, traffic policemen parked their motorbikes in front of the malfunctioning spikes to protect motorists from getting their tyres slashed.
Deputy Commissioner (media) Masudur Rahman of Dhaka Metropolitan Police told The Daily Star that the faulty spikes had been replaced and gave an assurance that a monitoring team would make sure that the spikes stay in order. “This is still a trial,” he said.
The device, made of stainless steel, was provided by Sohel Metal and designed by Jahan Alam, an engineer, said police.
In a festive event yesterday, Inspector General of Police Hassan Mahmood Khandker and DMP Commissioner Benazir Ahmed inaugurated the spike strips in the capital.
The IGP said, “We had hoped people would follow traffic rules. But since they don't, we installed the spikes to maintain traffic laws on the road.”
A man fixing the spikes after a number of them stopped retracting. Photo: Anisur Rahman
The spike strips were the result of the police's effort to tackle motorists and influential people dangerously driving on the wrong side of city streets, dodging oncoming traffic.
In most cases of such violation of traffic rules, policemen remain silent spectators. Some traffic policemen have even been seen helping the rule violators, making way for the culprits holding up traffic at intersections.
Traffic policemen on the ground told The Daily Star that mostly flag-bearing vehicles of ministers, lawmakers and top government officials, motorbikes, and vehicles carrying media people flout the traffic rule when there is a gridlock.
Other vehicles usually follow the vehicle that violated the rule first.
“The tendency to travel on the wrong side of road is to be found predominantly among conscious and powerful sections of the society,” observed a top traffic police official.
Wishing anonymity, the official said traffic constables and sergeants rarely dare to stop them and take legal action.
He appealed the top level of the government to issue a circular instructing the government officials and political leaders not to drive on the wrong side of streets.
The Daily Star correspondent around 4:00pm on a Wednesday saw a black sport utility vehicle travelling towards Bijoy Sarani intersection from Tongi Diversion Road on the wrong side of the road.
The vehicle, which had a sticker of a ministry, had a few near misses of head-on collisions before it stopped on the wrong side at the intersection and waited.
Traffic policemen on duty there saw the whole thing and did nothing. The vehicle eventually found a gap in the traffic flow and sped away.
Traffic flow on the legal side of the roads often halts due to vehicles travelling on the wrong side of the road. Even in the wee hours, Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue grinds to a halt in front of Karwan Bazar because vehicles especially trucks and rickshaw van travel on the wrong side of the street.
Driving on the wrong side is very common near Sonargaon intersection, Rangs Bhaban, Aeroplane intersections on Bijoy Sarani, Jashimuddin Road at Uttara, Khamarbari Road at Farmgate, and Shishu Mela intersection in Shyamoli.
Joint Commissioner (traffic) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police Mir Rezaul Alam said in some cases traffic police do not stop vehicles and fine them because if they try to discipline them, traffic flow suffers.
Zyma Islam and Anisur Rahman contributed to this report.