Thursday, October 9, 2014

The dilemma of Malaysian traffic is a reflection of its culture

Twice a day, every day, traffic comes to a standstill in the major cities. While the sheer number of private cars in Malaysia is clearly a contributing factor, one of the more immediate and direct causes observed is the selective suspension of traffic law and order during school dismissals and regular public gatherings.

Twice a day, thousands of vehicles park indiscriminately along public roads outside hundreds of inner-city schools for extended periods, waiting to pick up their children from school. Double, triple, even quadruple parking along roads clearly marked as 'no parking', along blind corners, junctions, and roundabouts. The problem is then multiplied as it also applies to mosques, churches, eateries, weddings, funerals, etc. There is no clear policy on when, why, or how such exemptions are made, neither is there a legal basis for it.

The values being contested are:
- The current situation involves invoking an unofficial, unstructured chaos that negatively affects other road users and society in general, in terms of safety and productivity. It also questions the meaning and authority of law when it is enforced selectively, with no clear policy for such exemptions.

- Those who do partake in this chaos argue that there is no alternative, and that everyone else should be understanding of their needs to pick up their kids/go to church etc. To enforce the law would disrupt their activities and 'rights'. (Parking at the doorstep of the gym is a 'right').

Of course, the reasonable solution here is to investigate, develop, and test options before suddenly enforcing the law. But 20 years of complacence and ignorance towards the issue has reinforced the status quo, requiring either stronger action, or none at all.

The dilemma is:
- Enforce traffic and public order laws universally, compelling society to acknowledge and address the underlying issues at hand, but inconveniencing and invoking the ire of a large portion of the public until solutions are found;
(risk losing the vote and public office)

- or, maintain the status quo, and expect everyone to work harder and longer to make up for lost hours on the road; while traffic issues continue to worsen year on year. (keep the vote and office, I have a private chauffeur anyway).

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