‘Gridlock’ is one of those scary terms thrown out to suggest fear in the minds of the public. ‘Gridlock’ suggests a complete vehicle immobility … created when too many vehicles attempt to move on the same roads at the same time.
And for the average Malaysian driver or public transport user, who regularly experiences the unpredictable slow movement and traffic jams that plague life in the larger Malaysian cities, ‘gridlock’ is an appropriate term to describe traffic that just gets worse and worse.
But we do not have ‘gridlock’ in the Klang Valley. We do not have gridlock in Penang or Johor Baru or Ipoh or any of the other big cities … simply because these cities do not have grids.
We’re not being facetious or uncaring here. We recognize that Malaysian cities have a massive problem of overwhelming traffic congestion. After all this is one of the reasons why TRANSIT exists.
But while congestion is stressful and has horrible social and economic costs, it is not ‘gridlock’ as TRANSIT knows the term. Vehicles move, albeit very, very slowly…sometimes after waiting for a very long time.
What this reveals to us is simple: We do not have a ‘gridlock’ problem on our roads. We have a traffic congestion problem caused by high traffic volumes, too many Single Occupant Vehicles (those SOV’s!), and bad driving behaviour caused by poor driver training.
Lousy urban and transport planning which makes driving necessary *and* funnels too many cars onto the roads is also to blame … and let’s not forget the ineffective public transport services which will never be a solution for many because they appear to offer the most basic of services to an undervalued “captive” ridership market.
To borrow an analogy, we often describe roads as our urban “arteries.” Well in KL and Malaysian cities we have lots of “arteries” but they are blocked by plaque (the bottlenecks and bad spots) made worse by cholesterol (dumb ideas and behaviours that create those “plaques”).
Have you ever wondered why certain drivers just appear to be very stupid (careless/reckless/dangerous etc…choose your own term)? Those stupid behaviours are the source of the plaque on our roads…the reason why there are jams without collisions and why good drivers feel like they have to be aggressive, reckless and offensive in order to survive…and why our roads and highways are so very unsafe.
So when you see articles like the one below, promising ‘gridlock’ if nothing is done, remember the following points:
1. There is no ‘gridlock’ on our roads only congestion caused by high traffic volumes, badly designed roads and poorly trained drivers.
2. We do not necessarily need costly mega-projects to find solutions for congestion. Instead we need to educate ourselves and become smarter at what we do.
3. Fear is used as a tool to generate compliance.
4. Threats and warnings are often a sign of weakness. In the case of government, this means a lack of policy alternatives or effective solutions.
Remember to think for yourself.