Long the bane of Srinagar, peak-hour traffic jams appear to have become more severe in post-flood days, particularly after dusk and in areas spared the attentions of the deluge, like much of the Old City and further down. The jams creep into interlinking roads, creating gridlocks that refuse to resolve for hours and hold thousands of motorists and passengers captive in smog and fuel fumes. The problem is seen replicated on routes leading to upper Srinagar as well, and could partly be attributed to vehicular flow being concentrated into commercial areas left untouched by floods, and the now-increasing public partiality to evening shopping.
Motoring being a lately discovered birthright, getting stuck in traffic jams is a privilege many would be loath to lose, but the prospect of emergency, of which there is no shortage in Kashmir, makes prolonged vehicular snarls an issue of public safety. Since helicopters are a long way off from being inducted into the fire services, one shudders to think of the consequences in congested downtown Srinagar should a blaze break out during a busy evening, with thoroughfares, lanes and by-lanes clogged by all manner of vehicles. Or the fate of a critical patient being ferried to one of the two major hospitals of the city, both of which become virtually inaccessible in the dusk rush hour.
The lack of traffic regulation in most parts of the city, and its impact on vehicular flow, has repeatedly been highlighted, but the administration has always paid nothing but token attention. After September, it also has a readymade excuse of its overstrained manpower, besides the oft-pleaded argument of an understaffed traffic department. Though the motoratti create the problem by their inveterate lack of patience, at crossings for example, the blame cannot be laid at their doorstep entirely. Having a modicum of regulation at important and busy crossings during rush hour could ease the problem to a great extent.
The motoring public too could show some responsibility by resorting to something known as car-pooling. It is extremely discouraging to see most private cars carrying just one occupant besides the driver, and more often just the driver. The city’s streets could also become more passable, and therefore useful, if people rediscovered the benefits of cycling.