Zebra Crossings the point of dispute

If there is one thing that annoys commuters, it should be traffic jams.

The unrestrained proliferation of motor vehicles in the capital over the years combined with poor road culture and serious lack of awareness on traffic ethics only make traffic jam an urban reality in Thimphu. 

The situation is especially worse during the morning office hours from 9am to 9:30am, lunchtime and after office.

While drivers are seen throwing temper tantrums on the roads, calling out and cursing each other, jaywalkers move at their own time and pace on the zebra crossings, sometimes making phone calls, an irresponsible thing to do.

The Director General of Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA), Pemba Wangchuk, said that motorists are aware of the crosswalk regulations and they are abiding by the rules, however pedestrians should be educated on traffic ethics. “Ten percent of traffic congestion can be reduced if cross-walkers are more responsible and respect the vehicles in line,” he said.

Additionally, on a panel discussion on Bhutan Broadcasting Services, the ThimphuThrompon, Kinley Dorji, said that if pedestrians can walk throughzebra crossings in groups rather than crossing singly, heavy traffic jams could be avoided.

As per the traffic division of Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), there are 78 zebra crossings starting from Babesa till Dechencholing. Since heavy traffic occurs in town areas, RBP has allocated extra traffic police in Changlam and Norzin Lam to monitor traffic jams and crosswalks.

A cab driver said it is disgusting to wait for the pedestrians to cross the road in their majestic walks while they are concernednot wasting time. “We have to stop at every zebra crossing and that is the sole reason for traffic jam. We respect their rights on the road and they should at least walk briskly while the cars are waiting.”

Meanwhile, the pedestrians have their own say: apparently cab drivers shout at them even though they try to cross the zebra crossing as fast as possible.

 “A synchronized road traffic is enough to ascertain a nation’s self-discipline. Traffic that flows smoothly is an indicator of a country’s progress,” said an elderly commuter.

Drivers also blame the locations of zebra crossing for traffic jams. For instance, some zebra crossings are located right at the junctions or on steep roads.

Some have also suggested that pedestrian lights should be installed at zebra crossings so that they can press the button and cross the road to avoid untoward incidents.

“There is also the need to construct overhead pedestrian bridges at critical locations within the Thromde that see large number of pedestrians,” said a Thimphu resident.

Meanwhile, if safety is everything, both drivers and pedestrians need to be careful.

Phub Dem from Thimphu