Through the phased installation of traffic lights in Kampala, the city authority is doing something about the gridlock which continues to make life miserable for road users.
But an outright disregard for these lights by boda boda riders and high-ranking government officials threatens to undermine the effort and has put many lives at risk.
The fact that traffic police choose to take over the role of the lights during rush hour has also been a subject of intense debate.
Consider that the once almost impassable Fairway hotel road junction, Kira road/Bukoto junction, Lugogo bypass/Jinja road junction, Nakawa, Wandegeya and Bwaise intersections at peak hours are now navigable, thanks to the newly installed traffic lights.
But Kampalans have another worry: accidents are increasing at these spots because a growing number of motorists don’t respect traffic lights regulations.
Sadly, it’s commonplace to see boda riders carrying passengers bolting through the red lights, setting themselves on a collision course with law-abiding motorists.
The situation is compounded by a growing number of unruly government officials, who with the help of police lead cars, speed through the same lights – sometimes driving directly towards oncoming traffic.
It is only a matter of time before their gross indiscipline results in calamity. With this reckless driving, it’s not surprising that Central Police Station, Kampala alone registers about 30 cases of people knocked at traffic lights junctions daily, including boda-boda cyclists.
Pedestrians, too, are clueless. They believe they can cross the junctions as and when they see an opening and not at the signal of the lights. And the traffic police’s obsession with taking over direction of traffic from the systematic lights adds to the confusion.
Motorists are always torn between stopping at the sight of the red light and heeding the traffic officer waving them through, or driving on at the sight of a green light and the officer ordering them to stop.
While the police over-deploy at traffic lights, we remain underserved at junctions without these lights. One wonders why. What Kampala needs is to let traffic lights work, and a sensible deployment of traffic officers right across the city especially during rush hour, and not only in the city centre.
It is commendable police has spent the last one month sensitising all boda boda cyclists within the five divisions of Kampala to respect traffic light regulations and are moving to deploy heavily to catch errant drivers and riders.
We hope any police action will include firm action against boda boda riders who think pedestrians should be driven off, or even mowed down on the pavement.