Illegal roadside parking of vehicles is unfortunately but undeniably one of the least addressed issues over the recent months both in the print media and the social media for reasons unknown. Relentlessly occupying the operable road space, illegally parked vehicles are demonically emerging as the mounting road obstacle both for the smooth flow of the moving traffic and the hassle-free movement of the pedestrians.
Although traffic congestion and illegal roadside parking are inextricably related issue, on-street parking vehicles seem to work always as the unexpected speed breakers for the onrushing traffic disarranging the traffic management even more seriously.
For the highest promotion of the road users’ safety and ensuring their right on the roads, the issue of roadside parking calls for maximum possible attention of the authority concerned on the most urgent basis.
According to a survey conducted by an NGO, out of the 100% road width on the ground only 50% are available for the moving traffic and the rest 50% is occupied by parked vehicles from both sides. In addition, vehicles are parked, especially by the streets in busy city zones with high driving potentialities, in an outrageously go-as-you-like-fashion virtually leaving the entire segment of the streets non-maneuverable for the other innumerable vehicles as well as the pedestrians. Speaking frankly, this sort of manifestly irresponsible and arrogant street stunts right middle in the roads is obviously one of the reasons behind traffic congestion in Dhaka, Chittagong and on the streets of other divisional and district headquarters.
In every civilised country, there are rules for street side vehicle parking as well as provisions for fines and penalties against violating the rules. Default cases there are promptly and drastically dealt with as per the existing rules and provisions. For example, any sort of unauthorised vehicle parking in the driveway in the streets of Melbourne is instantly met with either spot fine or wheel clamped. Similar or even more severe forms of deterrent provisions along with the practices of prompt execution are evidently found in the countries like the USA, the UK, Canada, Switzerland, SouthAfrica and in almost all countries across the globe. Any form of parking trespassing is treated as a punishable offence in the USA that accounts for monetary compensation ranging from US $ 500 to 3,000 and that the amounts penalised are mandatorily realised from the defaulters on the spots.The most important point to take into cognizance here is the fact that most of the citizens of the mentioned countries are very law-abiding and there are adequate parking arrangements on the roads and avenues since the highways and avenues over there accommodate lavishly multi-lane set-up. Therefore, parking even right on the roads seldom disturbs the running driveway.
However, the ground realities regarding roads, streets and highways in Bangladesh manifestly pose a grim picture. For example, most of the Bangladeshi highways, streets, roads and avenues are shockingly narrow and dangerously snaky. Moreover, even the existing crucial highways or the express highways connecting the divisional or regional cities are hardly four-lane ones let alone multi-lane ones like the developed as well as many developing countries. Since the driveways suffer from the chronic narrow space, the urgencies and the exigencies of building roadside parking lots evidently receive lack luster profile.
Barring a few cases of exception, unavailability of the minimum parking spaces in and around the most-frequented places like the shopping malls, restaurants, banks and other financial institutions etc. is a very common phenomenon in Bangladesh. Obviously, a very negative commercial frenzy evidently motivates and drives the owners to plan out their establishments in the fashion like ones devoid of parking spaces. Though the written provisions are there in the traffic and the urban laws calling for maintaining parking facilities for vehicles, in most cases these provisions are in the outdated versions and fall far short of addressing adequately the ever increasing demands for parking facilities. In addition, punitive measures against the unlawful parking are hardly taken by the enforcement agencies.
Another crucial point that has to be viewed that seriously is the population problem of Bangladesh. As a matter of fact, Bangladesh is an over-populous country given the number of people and the land volume in one square km.None can ever deny that our gargantuan population always works as a stumbling block in our total planning mechanism. Like many other sectors, due to density of population and its immediate spin-off effect of chronic space scarcity, we can hardly afford lavishly posh roadside parking lots. Still then, only a deliberate and well-thought-out planning can hold the last hope to help us out of this horrifying parking pandemonium.
A common everyday scene across the country is the truck unloading sand, bricks, cement or any other building materials holding the pedestrians and other on-street vehicles captives. Sometimes these loading and unloading operations continue for hours together creating untold inconveniences for the people on the pavement. Similar kind of brazen audacity of the motorists in parking vehicles is quite a common feature in the cities as well as mega cities of Bangladesh. Since they are politically, financially, administratively and socially empowered and make up influential pressure group, parking-affected people on the pavement can hardly dare to raise a protesting voice.
In the existing ground reality of the staggeringly huge number of vehicles on the roads in one hand and the narrow driving space on the other,one of the best possible suggestions to address both the parking requirements and the inconveniences of the pedestrians is to make the builders to mandatorily keep the underground car parking in their high rise buildings. Again, we have no other alternative left but to go for multi-lane arrangements with all urgency. Expanded roads will well accommodate the parked vehicles if arranged in a disciplined way. Living amid motors and machines we have to secure space for the safe-keeping of the machines since we can, in no way, destroy them. Even if we find space for vehicles still then we have to always remember that road extension and expansion have their limitations too.
The writer is an Assistant Professor, Bogra Cantonment Public School & College.