Lahore is a city that has much to offer. But to experience all that it offers one has to arrive at that said certain spot, in the first place.
Unfortunately, the pathways that lead towards a memorable experience in Lahore are peppered with obstacles of all shapes and forms. To state that Lahore has a traffic congestion problem would be an understatement. If anything it is quite baffling that the situation has been allowed to get worse with each passing day. On the roads of Lahore, there is no room for sanity.
The experience is traumatising, and I say that with zero hints of exaggeration. While some of it can be associated with poor urban planning by Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and traffic authorities, a major chunk of blame also lies with the citizens themselves.
No one should be surprised if the sequel to Mad Max: Fury Road was to be shot in our city. The production studio will end up saving millions in set design and the current sitting government will ecstatically claim this as another PTI success story. Predictably, PTI spokesperson Fawad Chaudhry will also end up addressing the media in a special briefing declaring that the next installment of the Fast and Furious franchise will also be shot in Lahore, starring Hollywood icon Vin Diesel drifting around Minar-e-Pakistan in a modified Suzuki Mehran.
Regardless of the fact that the infrastructure in Lahore is much better compared to other cities of the country, it still fails miserably in catering to the blossoming population of the city. The traffic wardens in charge of facilitating the steady flow of traffic can only do so much. And therein lies the problem, as the greater responsibility lies with the citizens in holding themselves accountable when travelling by roads in this city.
People always claim with great gusto that one who can successfully drive in Pakistan can drive anywhere in the world. But should driving be a skill that is to be acquired through a baptism of fire? I don’t believe so. And neither should you. And neither should you be reading this while driving.
In 2018, as part of their safety campaign, the government decided to impose a 1000-rupee fine on motorcyclists for not wearing helmets. This initiative was taken for the benefit of the citizens and to act as a countermeasure for the increasing number of roadside accidents. While most citizens have adhered to this new policy, a certain number of motorcyclists can still be seen riding without a helmet. As I watch them on traffic stops playing hide and seek with traffic wardens, I wonder to myself if they will ever come to the realisation that this policy is for their own benefit. And irrespective of the said policy, I would still not be surprised if some guy ends up performing a wheelie in front of my car in the fast lane. You see, daredevils have no time for rules and restrictions, let alone bother themselves with wearing helmets.
Some car drivers themselves are also no saints when it comes to driving like a responsible adult in the city. With headlights on full beam and Yo Yo Honey Singh blazing on the speakers, they try to drift in and out of heavy traffic blinding every living thing in sight. For them it’s their way, or the highway; the latter of which are quite few in Lahore. Instead there are potholes around every corner, a stray animal running across the road and that one individual that pretends to be no less than Magneto from the X-Men comic books — with the power to manipulate metal to their will — casually walking on the road in heavy traffic and belting out a strong palm to stop the incoming traffic. The audacity of which if you were to question with a honk from your vehicle will end up with you on the receiving end of the deadliest of death stare.
The argument that befalls around such problems is that the authorities need to be stricter in ensuring people observe proper lane changes, stick to the allocated speed limits, and obviously not run through red traffic lights. However, the behaviour changes of the individuals committing traffic violations can only be curtailed so much through safety campaigns and regulation.
Nothing should be more precious than life itself, and for someone to weigh it according to the magnitude of the traffic challans dispersed is clearly troublesome. One can only hope that while strongly advocating stringent traffic rules and holding traffic authorities accountable we can also learn to adopt an active stance in educating our fellow citizens on how to keep a cool and calm head when driving.