There is more than enough blame to go around for the unmanageable traffic plaguing commuters all day and every business day at the Red Light commercial district in Paynesville.
Police officers assigned at Red Light have sometimes at the height of the chaos under the blazing sun, disappeared, leaving car loaders or affected commuters to deal with angry, swearing and unyielding motorists in order to untangle the mess and keep the traffic moving. Minor accidents frequently happen.
Some officers blame the constant traffic jam at Red Light on the hundreds of vendors encroaching on the road, competing to reach commuters in vehicles with their wares.
According to the officers who spoke to the Daily Observer on condition of anonymity, street vendors have overwhelmed them and they face a serious challenge driving them away from the road.
One officer said, “See these vendors all here. We are after them all day to go away from the road; but they will re-occupy the road as soon as we turn our backs.”
The Red Light district is host to thousands of people from various parts of Monrovia and from the interior of the country who converge there to buy or sell their produce and other goods at the “Go Buy Chop” (pronounced gobachop) market. Trucks loaded high with bags of charcoal and produce from various parts of the country come there to transact with retailers who have now taken over both sides of the road.
The resulting traffic jam, commuters and drivers say, is a complete “nightmare” that is difficult to handle.
Vehicles and humans all mixed up on the road every day to transact business anywhere they please, make the free flow of traffic nearly impossible without enough police manpower equipped to control it.
However, some vendors crowding the road at Red Light justified their actions saying that they are on the road selling because they make more money that way.
Besides, they say, there is nowhere else for them to sell since inside the main market hall at Gobachop was not spacious enough to accommodate all of the sellers.
“One specific area that has become a total headache to us is the Bob Taylor Junction before reaching the heart of the Red Light Market,” a police officer noted.
A vehicle could take up to ninety minutes between Police Academy and Bob Taylor junction almost the same time it takes to drive to Kakata and back.
Another culprit of the traffic jam is the lack of organized parking areas near the road and a terminal to accommodate the many vehicles under the Federation of Road Transport Union (FRTUL), other police officers complained.
As a result, commercial vehicles stop in traffic to take on or let off their passengers, thus holding up traffic throughout the commute to the irritation of other vehicles plying the road.
The motorcyclists, for their part, have organized themselves into groups that park in dozens of places all over the Paynesville area.
With a penchant (liking) for being somewhat reckless, however, they dart across intersections, zig zag in and out of traffic, posing a serious accident risk to their hapless passengers and others.
Traffic rules are not their worry, and they believe vehicles should watch out for them instead.
But not many business people complain about the parking space taken over by the cyclists in front of their stores, usually near the various junctions because they provide a cheaper means of traveling from the highway into the various communities where taxis will not go due to the usually deplorable condition of neighbourhood streets.
At least the motorcycles are not in the traffic until they have a passenger.
A car loader said, “The road is not wide enough for cars to park on the side. It is on the very road they park for passengers to get down, and as you can see, cars are turning ahead, while people are sitting on the road selling.
So traffic jam will always be here until the road is widened or marketers are relocated from here.”
Others added that wheelbarrow pushers are also on the road finding space among cars and vendors to make business.
The congestion causes vehicles and ambulances to spend hours in traffic beginning from the Greater Outreach Church to the Red-light turning point near the parking.
Another problem that has worsened the traffic situation is the presence of the ‘car loaders,’ who often assume the task of directing traffic instead of the police officers.
This phenomenon points to the need for more police officers to be assigned along the most congested sections of the Red Light area and for the enforcement of ordinances to keep vendors and marketers off the road and in their rightful areas of business activity.
Past governments including the regime of President Charles Taylor attempted to remove street vendors from Red Light, but did not succeed due to the lack of space to accommodate them elsewhere.
The Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration has identified the Omega Community to relocate marketers and construction work is ongoing.
Furthermore, Public Works Minister Gyude Moore disclosed last year to a team of Daily Observer reporters that government will reconstruct the ELWA-Coca Cola road, making it into a four lane thoroughfare to ease the traffic congestion in this large commercial hub.
The expanded road would also eliminate another serious traffic complication — the huge potholes which vehicles have to wade through, slowing traffic further during the rainy season.
When these projects are completed, vendors and marketers will be relocated to the new market and space provided for parking, ensuring the free flow of traffic in the Red Light area.
In the meantime, commuters traveling to and from Monrovia are urged to avoid when possible the stretch of the traffic jam between Coca Cola Factory all the way past the market zone to Police Academy junction, after which you are home free. There are alternative routes to bypass that vexing traffic.
A factor associated with the Red Light Market traffic is that some commercial drivers do not use the alternative routes because some commuters do not want to pay the extra fares to those destinations.
Some transport analysts also told the Daily Observer Wednesday that commuters and others who do not need to pass through Red Light Market could use the alternative routes such as the Zubah Town, Duport Road and Zayzay Community road corridors.
The transport analysts also suggested that those commuters and other business people who frequently travel to the rural parts and others coming from the direction of Duala, Bushrod Island, Freeport and Somalia Drive could use the Nezoe Community route in order to avoid the horrendous Red Light Market traffic.