Crossing Cambodia

Monday, March 05, 2007

Lately in Lao II

Following on the previous story on the announcement that Lao authorities solution to traffic congestion is to opt for imposing one-way traffic flow, the government controlled Vientiane Times comes (for Lao) with a frank and critical article of how after a few days, the system is not working:

One-way system fails to materialize

The Vientiane authority is yet to implement the notice it issued on February 8, initiating a one-way system along the narrow streets running between Fangum Road and Setthathirath Road , set to begin on March 1.

It was clear yesterday that no one using the roads was actually aware of this notice, as traffic continued to run in both directions, and there were no signs in place or police on duty, as the notice indicated there would be, to direct traffic.

Vientiane Times spoke with people using the roads in this part of the city, asking them what they knew of the one-way system. Some said they had heard such a system was to start, but they didn't know when exactly it would be introduced.

“If the one-way system is supposed to begin today, why aren't there any signs or police around to guide people?” one woman said.

Critics said the notice issued by the Vientiane Urban Development Administration Authority (VUDAA) was meaningless, and queried the point of issuing a notice without putting it into practice.

This reporter called a senior VUDAA official several times to ask for clarification, but received the response that the office was busy with a meeting and would address the question at a later time.

As stated in the notice issued on February 8, the streets to become one-way roads begin at the western end of Fangum Road , starting with Chao Anou Road . Traffic will flow from the Mekong banks into town along this road, and on the street running parallel, Francois Ngin Road , traffic will run from the town towards the river.

On the next road along, Norkeokoumman Road , traffic will run from the Mekong into town, on Mantha-toulath Road the flow will be from the town side to the Mekong, and on Pangkham Road the direction of flow will be from the Mekong towards town.

The notice also stated that cars should park on only one side of the road, in accordance with odd and even dates. For example, on odd-numbered dates, cars can be parked on the right side of the road, whereas on even-numbered dates, parking will be on the left.

The problems caused by cars parking on both sides of the road can be seen all over the capital, and is one of the main causes of accidents. Some people park directly under ‘no parking' signs, deliberately disobeying the authorities who installed them.

These signs are useless unless traffic police enforce them. The problem is that people in general ignore traffic regulations. Although people know the rules, they don't obey them, and ignore the need for safety on our roads.

According to the notice, the roads on which the odd and even date parking restrictions will apply include those in the older part of town. The system will also apply to the downtown stretch of Samsaenthai Road , from the traffic lights near Vat Sisaket temple up as far as the Department of Geology and Mines.

Part of Setthathirath Road is also included in the scheme, from Inpeng temple to the Hor Kham (Presidential Palace).

There seems to be no clear plan as to how to solve parking problems in the long term, but this needs to be addressed urgently, as the number of vehicles is increasing every year. In 2006, the number of vehicles registered in Vientiane rose to 225,472.

So, as is the case with Cambodia, economic growth results in increased traffic and unfortunately poor management of the growth. Many countries in the world have tried to cope with this, so these governments only need to look to them for solutions. Countries such as Malaysia and Singapore and the city of Bangkok have developed public transport, often much better than elsewhere in the world and have made strides in restricting access to public roads (the system in Singapore was working years before the system in London, UK; Bangkok has a scheme where certain motorway lanes can only be accessed by vehicles with more than 1 occupant). The highly irregular, hesitant and often contradictory approach by for instance the Cambodian authorities certainly reflects poorly on their position of being elected public servants. Alternatives?
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