That commercial motorbike operators should be banned from plying the Central Business District (CBD) is a noble idea. Apart from Freetown growing smaller and the number of bike riders seemingly increasing every day, these riders are notorious for their disregard for rules governing the roads. They are known for lawlessness and disdain for traffic officers and other road users, the number of senseless accidents they cause notwithstanding. But to ban them from the CBD, serious planning should have especially gone into rerouting them and decongesting the CBD from the resultant pedestrian overflow.
As a result of banning riders from town, the CBD is now experiencing serious overcrowding, something the buses, taxis and kekehs are finding very difficult to accommodate. Day in day out in the CBD, especially around noon, it seems as if Freetown is being invaded by people and vehicles. Traffic jams that were already a problem have been exacerbated to a point of overflowing.
This was the case at Mountain Cut yesterday when around noon, from the intersection with Kissy Road to just past Fourth Street traffic was at a standstill for over an hour when the number of commercial motorbikes, cars and pedestrians reached a suffocating climax. People and motor vehicles could barely move, with traffic officers at a loss for ideas of how to move the crowd. If this situation is allowed to continue on a daily basis, we should expect a rise in reported cases of road rage fights between drivers and road accidents, said a traffic officer who spoke on anonymity because he ‘cannot officially speak for the police force’. He said before banning bike riders from plying Kissy Road, the road transport authority, the police, city council and town planners should have gotten together to best see how they could rehabilitate the many feeder roads between Mountain Cut and Up Gun; which brings us to our point.
Neglected since they were widely used when the population of Freetown was within and below its capacity, these ‘feeder streets’, far from serving their intended purpose of decongesting traffic by providing drivers with alternate routes, are now part of the problem. They are in such states of disrepair, vehicular traffic has dwindled to such desperate lows that cars don’t use them, and residents have come to see them as their private driveways, so much so that they even stop vehicles from plying them.
For a long time successive governments in Sierra Leone have wrongly preached that our agricultural production would improve if only we were to build and or rehabilitate farm to market and farm to highway roads. While those in the know would see that as part of the reason for our drop in agricultural output, the question that forces itself on us is: if we have so neglected the very necessary feeder streets across Freetown (the seat of our economic, social and political existence) that are still good to be used for their intended purposes, how serious are we about feeder roads upcountry?
As Freetown gets smaller every day, with the number of cars and people using the roads growing every day including traders, omolankays, wheelbarrows, if we do not improve on our road network certain areas of town will, in under a generation (29 years), be unfit for vehicular traffic. Case in point would be Dove Cut. Less than a generation ago, traffic from Cline Town, especially the Queen Elizabeth II Quay, used Dove Cut as a shortcut to access Kissy Street (now Sani Abacha Street) on their way west. Today, streets like Sackville Street, Free Street, Back Street, Upper East Street, face similar fates as Malama Thomas Street and every other feeder street that is now unfit for vehicular traffic across Freetown.
This doomsday road scenario cannot, and should not, be far from what our town planners have or are foreseeing for Freetown. The traffic and congestion problems we are experiencing in Freetown is not as a result of the number of vehicles and pedestrians using the roads, it is rather a result of the neglect of these very critical vein roads that feed onto the main roads leading to the highways. Banning motorbikes and kekehs from plying certain streets in the city is not the solution to what has become a perpetual problem in Freetown. Our road planners or relevant authorities have failed to plan for the future of road usage in Freetown hence they planned on failing, and are doing so miserably.
What we are now experiencing across Freetown started a long time ago. All across the city, the many smaller roads and streets that were built to decongest the main thoroughfares are all in bad condition. Any government that is serious about rehabilitating or constructing feeder roads upcountry should start with the ones that are right under our noses in the business and political heart of the land that we love, or else they will just be talking rhetoric as usual while blaming the wrong people and things for their lack of foresight.