The installation of traffic lights in Kisumu this week is both good and bad news at the same time. The good news is that traffic lights when properly used can help in greatly easing the flow of human and vehicular traffic in a town or city. They are also a means of bringing down cases of car crashes as traffic movement is controlled far much better. More importantly, traffic lights when adhered to, can enhance the safety of pedestrians.
Therefore, a city such as Kisumu, which is experiencing a rapid increase in the number of vehicles and people, ought to have traffic lights installed to maintain traffic sanity. It is, therefore sad that the city, which is a commercial hub of Western region, has been operating without such a critical installations, yet it is the third largest in the country. This is a serious indictment of the state of our cities and just how much work they need to do to become smart, progressive and friendly.
When the then President Daniel Moi declared the lakeside town a city 18 years ago, traffic lights and other important facilities, like a commuter train service, should have been part of a short-term plan to accord with its new status.
That the traffic lights were only installed on Wednesday is an indictment of the city honchos. This also serves to illustrate the lack of seriousness in planning our cities and town, and generally the complacent manner we deal with serious affairs our country.
It is also not enough to install the traffic lights. We need to ensure that they are always working and serving the purpose for which they were put up. Cases where traffic police man roundabouts ignoring the traffic lights are common in Nairobi.
This defeats the purpose for which the lights were installed in the first place. Kisumu must not allow itself to fall into the same trap. Road users must also develop the discipline of obeying them, or else they will end up defeating the very purpose for which the lights were installed.
Now that Kisumu got its lights, other towns should also follow suit and also explore other ways to modernise. They should also ensure that infrastructure facilities are in good shape and are not allowed to degenerate as happened in Nairobi.
Roads, parks, markets, bus stops and other infrastructure should be in good condition in tandem with the status of our cities.
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