The Daily Mirror this week highlighted the problems that motorists face on a daily basis at the ubiquitous roundabouts that occupy our city's streets at various strategic junctions, which invariably cause traffic jams. These roundabouts were good at the time they were first constructed shortly after World War II in the late 40's when traffic density was less than five percent of what it is today. They were supposed to replace the traffic police officer in the quaint beat. This was a shelter roughly about a metre in diameter with a conical roof perched high above the road to shelter the traffic officer in baggy shorts complete with felt hat. This was the standard uniform handed down from British times. The officer was invariably soaked to the skin on days when the weather was inclement like in recent days. They were expected to wave their arms to direct the traffic but more often than not they were not using them for more than half the time as the traffic flow could have managed without them.
Traffic Lights designed and made by the Moratuwa University appeared on the streets about 50 years ago and have now taken over the task of controlling traffic on the streets. It is unfortunate that these Traffic Lights are not timed correctly to ease the flow of traffic and as a result are the cause of major traffic blocks at almost every junction. It is common to sit patiently behind the wheel and observe time pass by when there is no traffic on the road to be crossed as the light is still Red. As a result precious time is lost coupled to the loss of fuel with the engine idling till the light turns Green.
Motorists often discover that when a traffic light goes out of order -- and this is only too common today, the flow of traffic is far smoother than when they are in operation.
The solution to this problem is to have officers either from the manufacturer, Moratuwa University or the Police to be co-opted to closely observe the pattern of the flow of traffic and ensure that the timing of the flow of each stream of traffic is optimised to avoid the pile up of traffic. This monitoring should be on a regular basis and there should be some means of the public contacting the office responsible for the traffic light. Members of the motoring public can also be invited to advise on the timing of the Traffic Lights to ensure that the flow of traffic is not impeded as is happening today, with unfortunate results. A small notice on each Traffic light with a phone number to be called in the event of need will help to ensure that they work smoothly and traffic flows smoothly on our main streets in the City.