With an aim to help pedestrians cross an intersection safely and reduce risks of accidents, Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) in October installed “push button time countdown” signal systems on a pilot basis in two of its areas.
One of the signals were installed in front of SFX Greenherald International School in Mohammadpur on October 24.
A similar signal was set up in front of Brac University in Mohakhali, which is yet to be fully functional.
To make people use the signals, the city corporation and Dhaka Metropolitan Police designated three guards and two traffic officials at the Mohammadpur spot. Besides, there are also two guards from Greenherald who help students cross the road.
Even with all that manpower and digitailsation, the initiative has failed to achieve desired results as not only are vehicles ignoring the signal, but pedestrians are also showing reluctance to avail the service.
Visiting the spot this week, this correspondent saw police, guards and school volunteers stopping vehicles of all sizes and kinds manually, that too after much efforts. Many pedestrians were crossing the road when the red light was on.
This newspaper had also visited the spot around three weeks back and saw similar chaos.
“Often, drivers do not follow the signal. We need to whistle and stop vehicles for students to cross the road,” said Saiful Islam, shift in-charge of DNCC guards.
Constable Bashar added, “Drivers behave in such a way as if they own the road and are above the law. Some of them even ignore red light intentionally.”
Teachers of Greenherald hoped the situation would improve.
“It’s a good initiative, but it has to be implemented properly to be more effective,” said senior teacher Malcolm Mendez, adding, “A month back, the situation was even worse but it’s improving now.”
Auto-rickshaw driver Noor Alam, however, had a different response. After skipping the stop signal, he stopped to pick up a passenger nearby. When asked, he said, “Have you seen any vehicle stopping at the signal?”
He also blamed pedestrians for crossing the road haphazardly.
Caught in the act, Mohammad Jalal, a private jobholder said, “I pushed the button three times and waited. But no one stopped. So I just looked around and crossed the road.”
Activists, however, blame lack of awareness and enforcement of laws in this regard.
Maruf Hossain, programme manager of Work for Better Bangladesh Trust, said, “Law enforcers should strictly maintain and implement the law to make sure vehicles and people follow it. Also, the city corporation authorities should raise awareness among residents.”
Contacted, KM Shahidul Islam Sohag, assistant commissioner of DMP traffic (west/Mohammadpur), said “The new road transport act just came into effect. We’ll soon fine vehicles for not abiding by law. Now, we are focusing on raising awareness.”
Meanwhile, the signal has been made automated. It allows pedestrians 26 seconds to cross the road. During the countdown, the light turns green. Afterwards, the red light turns on and another countdown starts for 70 seconds, prohibiting pedestrians from crossing the road and allowing vehicles to pass.
A week after its launch the system had faced difficulties, including problems with the countdown and power failure.
Architect Shareq Rauf Chowdhury and Nur-E-Dipha Muttaqi Ananya designed the system. Based on their design, DNCC implemented the system via a contractor.
Asked, Shareq said at first, the countdown after pressing the button worked properly. Afterwards it was having some issues as the circuit system was not updated. “Considering all that, we’ve made it automated,” he added.
There was also no backup power system installed for the signals in case of power outage, he said, adding that they will set up IPS (instant power supply) units soon.
Contacted over phone, DNCC Superintendent Engineer Arifur Rahman said, “It’s a new concept… we need some time to make people get used to it.”
He said taking experience from the system at Mohammadpur, they will improve the Mohakhali signal, where guards from Brac University are helping students and pedestrians cross the road.
The project cost around Tk 9.2 lakh. DNCC plans to install the system in at least 20 points -- mainly in front of educational institutions.