The use of zebra crossings by pedestrians has decreased over time since they were introduced in 2015, and instead, an alarming tendency in society has emerged of persons illegally crossing roadways.
Currently, Thimphu has around 63 zebra crossings as per the Thimphu traffic division of Royal Bhutan Police.
Amidst the pandemic and lockdown, Thimphu recorded two cases of pedestrian hit by cars this year.
“Even if the cases are low, we can still see people being careless and even if they use zebra cross, they casually jay walk taking their own time concerning the relevant authority,” says Col. Namgay, the Superintendent of Police (S.P) of Traffic Division, Thimphu
He adds from 2015 to 2019, enough advocacy and media awareness on zebra cross has already been done.
Public opines that there should be more zebra cross for safety purposes.
It is said that in every 20 metres, there should be a zebra cross, but if traffic goes by that rule, there will be traffic congestion due to many crossways, so they have done away with five pedestrian crossings in 2019.
They are planning to cut down more crossway but they will keep the ones that are necessary especially in core town.
A cab driver says, “I don’t know who else to blame if accidents occurs when pedestrian cross the road without the use of zebra cross. And another concern is over the animals which makes the road crowed.
He further adds that the hedges along the highways makes it difficult for them to see while driving as people tend to cross the road whenever they want without using the zebra cross.
According to Thimphu thromde, they trim the hedges along the highway 4-5 times a year. When Bhutan Times asked about the removal of hedges to minimise the risk of accidents, they answered that there are no plans to remove the hedges as they add greenery and beautification to the city.
There are multiple zebra crossings, an overhead and underpass along the highway and people are expected to use these for their safety as well as for the drivers, Thimphu thromde added.
Traffic S.P says, people tend to find short route while crossing the road even if the zebra cross is nearby.
He adds, in this age, it is mandatory for police to be on ground and monitor the situation and if there are no police on ground, people tend to be complacent and make their own decision and cross the highways which ever they like.
And to the issue of animals he says, it is a migration trend of animals; it happens around twice in a year but in the core town such problems don’t occur.
Drivers and pedestrian are of the view that the white lines of zebra cross have faded and they find it difficult to see the crossway.
To this, the traffic division plans to repaint the zebra cross by August. They also intend to enhance road by installing signboards and discuss with the relevant stakeholders like Thimphu Thromde, Road Safety and Transport Authority and Department of Roads on the traffic issues and necessary interventions.
Thimphu traffic police division feels that some road dividers need to be removed while some road signs are in need of maintenance and some in need of improvement and they are planning to put extra men on the ground to monitor the situation and see if there are illegal crossing of roads by the pedestrian
For advocacy and awareness program, they even have videos to let people know about the usage of zebra cross and underpass.
Some people suggested that the divider along the highway should be made taller in order for the pedestrian to use the designated crossings to avoid mishaps.
But thromde have highlighted that there are higher dividers such as the one along Doebum Lam (Swimming Pool Highway), yet people still manage to climb or jump over it. Higher dividers do not seem to deter people from crossing the roads at random places.
They further added that the public needs to be responsible citizens and ensure they cross the road only on designated crossings.
Meanwhile, Thimphu Thromde has no immediate plans to make more underpasses.
Thromde officials said that they routinely clean and maintains the current underpasses and there are also plans to install a proper lighting system to ensure the safety of the public.