urban planners in kampala, please HELP?!


From redpepper.co.ug - Bukoto-Heights-Apartments
Bukoto Heights Apartments (Photo from http://www.redpepper.co.ug)

Dear Urban Planners and People In Charge of decisions such as which buildings of what type go where and how, Please HELP? The only way we can stop begging you to help is if you implement the stuff you went to school to learn.

I haven’t been to those schools or gone through the academic process you did, so I can’t say for sure that you are taught these things in those official forums; since I presume you live and work in places like Kampala, I hope that you share the pain most of us do.

Having just resumed driving my own vehicle last weekend, I was unprepared for the entire experience of getting from one place to another in one emotionally sound piece – and I can only blame the urban planning people.

To start with, leaving home was more difficult because there are yet MORE apartment blocks going up in the area where I reside. This means that there are MORE motor vehicles being parked in the neighborhoods there overnight, and needing to leave in the mornings for life. It also means that there are MORE motor vehicles visiting the neighborhoods during the day, and occasionally MORE celebrations during the day.

It is paragraphs such as the above that I would assume get written down in text books and notes of people studying urban planning. See, some of the buildings contain apartments with three bedrooms, for instance, which means that they will probably be occupied by a family. That family, in an upscale neighborhood, will almost certainly consist of two adults both gainfully employed in busy jobs that will require them to have a different car each.

When urban planners and those people who approve construction projects don’t take that into consideration and therefore demand that the investors in these apartment blocks create sufficient parking space, we end up having our already narrow neighborhood roads crammed with cars parked by the roadside.

Because the already narrow roads don’t have pavements or sidewalks, pedestrians walk weaving through the roadside cars and suddenly pop up in front of you on the road as you carefully drive through trying to avoid scratching cars on either side. Luckily, you are incapable of driving at speeds that could occasion vehicular bloodshed, but the anguish of avoiding said bloodshed tends to pile up.

By the time you leave the residential area and make it onto the main roads, therefore, you cannot be in a mellow frame of mind, and that makes you less prepared to deal with the discourtesy of your fellow motor vehicle operators. The rapid accumulation of motor vehicles at specific points of the road necessitates the deployment of traffic officers to create a semblance of order but they are normally as lacking in humour as you, the drivers, are.

One can’t blame them as much as the urban planners, whose fault at this point is the failure to increase the number of road connections from point to point in order to ease the flow of traffic. Where I reside, for instance, there are only three roads leading to the main roads, but many others that are called “Closes” because they close up at the gates of private residences.

These residences, urban legend has it, are mostly illegal – having been constructed smack in the middle of a road that should connect to other roads as the urban plans indicate.

The urban plans probably include some maps and should be in the custody of the urban planning people who would, under normal circumstances, take the necessary corrective action so that life is made easier for all Ugandans. I cannot explain why it doesn’t happen, which is why I go about my business as normally as last weekend when I went through this anguish to visit a relative on the other side of town.

En route to my destination I stopped over at a supermarket to pick up a small gift and was directed to the basement parking of the so-called Mall housing the supermarket. As I descended into the dark pit of the building I switched my car lights on and noticed that many of the pillars holding the building up were chipped at the edges.

A car emerging from the basement made it clear why. Within seconds I found myself in a panic because the departing vehicle turned a millisecond too early and was suddenly stuck in position, as was I because of another vehicle behind mine, and another behind that one, all causing a fresh traffic jam from the road into the basement of the building!

I’m certain that in our minds we all bore colourful thoughts about the urban planning people who approved the plans that created a basement with pillars placed so close to each other and the walls. The fellow in the departing car, though, became the most aggrieved when his car chipped off another bit of the edge of the pillar as he tried to make his escape from the dungeon.

Some of this would have been avoided, I’m sure, if the urban planners had considered the nature of the tenants and users of such buildings before approving plans; if each and every one of the tenant shops in that building had one car parked in the basement full-time, then the hundreds of shoppers driving in would always be squeezing their cars in between the spaces left over and against walls and pillars.

That’s another reason the urban planners need to revisit those lessons about public transportation systems and how they fit into the arrangement of buildings in towns and cities. Malls placed in locations far removed from where mass transport stops exist will most certainly be used by car owners – otherwise how are people to carry their shopping home?!

HELP US, we beg you, and revisit all your learnings from school?

fetch me the chaps who make zebra crossings…NOW


Zebra Crossing

 

Somebody, please point me to the person in charge of deciding where zebra crossings go?

At my kids’ school it’s ridiculous.

The zebra crossing over there, on what I believe is called Gaddafi Road, is a little faded, but that is not the problem – it might actually be the solution, because the sooner it disappears, the better.

Because the crossing runs from one end of the road to the other, right onto the entranceway into a parking lot (see above, again).

Yes – the safe crossing point at my children’s school leads pedestrians straight into oncoming traffic. There are crazier things happening in the world, of course, but this would be high on your list if it were happening to your children two times every day.

This is not the fault of the Aga Khan Education Services, which is run by hard-working educationists and administrators, because my expectation of them is to provide an education and an environment in which that education will be received and absorbed in an enjoyable manner.

Which is why I ask again: who is in charge of these things? Who is the person who took time to examine the problem children and parents were facing getting across this busy road, and worked out that a zebra crossing would solve it?

That person must have researched the concept of zebra crossings and the fact that they give right of way to pedestrians – the same right of way that driving instructors, back when I was in driving school, explained to me in some detail.

On establishing that a zebra crossing would be a good solution to the problem of children and parents risking life crossing a busy road in Kampala City, the person behind the Aga Khan zebra crossing probably got to work designing it.

From the looks of it, that person’s idea of ‘design’ was to: a) Draw black and white strips. b) Leave.

The strips aren’t even all the same size!

Taking into account the speed of internet access used to google ‘zebra crossing’ (if that person’s internet provider is the same as mine), and the time taken to pick up one pencil and one sheet of paper, this entire process should have taken four minutes.

And that person certainly didn’t get involved in painting the actual zebra crossing onto the road, otherwise the folly of its placement would have been clear to see, if they had their wits about them while doing the painting.

That folly is clear to us, parents and children alike, as we make that crossing daily like gladiators facing vehicular monsters under the control of the maniacal drivers Kampala seems to produce in their thousands.

The plot thickened recently when due to genuine security concerns cars were prohibited from driving into the school yard to drop children off, and more recently when the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) rightly put a stop to the practice of parking on the pavements.

So now, all vehicles must go into that one parking lot, accessible strictly over the same single zebra crossing that leads children and those parents adventurous enough to accompany their young into the arena.

Not all parents or minders, I might add, face this danger; some are too busy to get involved and toss their little ones out of the car in order to head off into commerce and duty. They are not taking risks, I presume, since there have been no reports in the recent past of vehicular tragedy at this school.

Other parents, minders and drivers, while speeding off to their other lives, narrowly escape killing their children’s classmates every morning and afternoon while doing so.

Again, they can’t be fully to blame because their only access in and out of the parking lot is by way of the zebra crossing.

Luckily, there is a traffic officer present most mornings to guide the chaos. But if the zebra crossing designer had applied just a little bit of planning during their work, then that traffic officer would have been deployed to create a higher level of order or handle a more serious crime elsewhere.

The officer in question is most times assisted by some parking attendants kindly provided by the school and, together with parents and children, small crowds form to intimidate the vehicles enough to avert death.

The challenge is entertaining to observe, but some times also irritating. Like the Friday before last when one Nadia-driving lady impatiently hooted at a group of parents, children and attendants to get them out of her way after she had dropped her ‘passengers’ off.

On realising that her car horn was not achieving the desired effect, she took a leaf from the book of taxi drivers and drove over the pavement and kerb, inches away from ANOTHER group of parents and children, and made her way into the road.

The irony of a child-dropping parent being a threat to the lives of other children and parents doing the same is as thick as that of the zebra crossing leading into the parking lot; and just a little less thick than the designer of this zebra crossing itself.