New traffic rules make commuting to work a hurdle for office goers
With the announcement of the new modality of lockdown, many industries and offices in the Valley have resumed work, paving a way for workers to go back to their workplace. But what has not resumed are the public vehicles making it difficult for office personnel to commute to work. The relaxation of lockdown, for now, means only private vehicles including motorcycles are allowed to ply on the streets. That too comes with conditions — implementation of odd-even rules for vehicles, can carry only two passengers in a four-wheeler, and bikers can travel solo only.
These new rules, effective from June 10 are not practical, complain the public who are forced to struggle to commute to their workplace with the eased lockdown.
Favourable to private vehicle owners only
Sharmila Basnet, a staff of the District Dairy Corporation (DDC), who to depends on public vehicles to commute to work said, “It is good the lockdown has eased. But, the new rules introduced for safe travel are favourable to the private vehicle owners only.”
She doesn’t own a vehicle, and Basnet used to reach her office at Lainchaur from her home at Gundu, Bhaktapur, changing three buses everyday.
But with no availability of public vehicles, on June 15, the first day to work with eased lockdown, she could not reach office. “We were summoned to report to office from June 15. But, as I don’t have my own vehicle, I chose to ask for a lift. But they say bikes can’t carry a pillion rider, so I can’t ask for lift with bikers too,” she shared.
Similar is the plight of Rabina Danekhu from Bhaktapur, a staff of Unlimited Technology. As she commutes to work at New Road on public vehicles, she was unable to reach her workplace despite the relaxed lockdown. “Neither are there public vehicles nor I can share a ride with my husband and brother on their bikes. The rule is beneficial for private four-wheelers only,” she shared showing her dissatisfaction.
Grishma Tamrakar’s father owns a motorbike but as bike sharing is not allowed she has been walking for around 40 minutes everyday to reach her office at Khusibu from her home at Gongabu. “It is tiresome to work after walking a long distance. Having said this, I cannot lose my job either. So, I have to walk,” she pointed out.
With no availability of public vehicle, Khumaltar-resident Usha Balami had been commuting to her office in the Patan Industrial area on her colleague’s bike during stringent lockdown. But on June 12, security personnel at Satdobato made her get off the bike for breaking the rule of the relaxed lockdown — sharing a bike ride. Since that day she has been walking from Satdobato to her office in Lagankhel.
Address the needs
These office goers who do not own vehicles demand amending of the rules either by allowing public vehicles to ply on the roads, or by allowing to share rides on bikes so that they can ask their relatives for a lift.
They opine that two family members sharing a ride on a bike won’t play a role in transmitting the virus as they are in contact with one another at their homes too.
They also think it would be better if offices could provide shuttle services for their staff. But as all offices might not be able to manage it, Danekhu said at least motorcycle riders should be allowed to take their family members to work. If not, then public vehicles carrying a few passengers should be allowed on the roads while ensuring that everyone is safe.
Tamrakar echoed a similar view.
“When two person in the same family can live together in the lockdown, it won’t matter if they travel on the same motorcycle. So, the prohibition of two persons riding the same motorcycle is very unsatisfying.”
Basnet added, “If there is risk of virus transmission by sharing a bike ride amongst family members, there is higher risk of its transmission in office as there will be more than two people. However, having said this, there is no point in stopping industries and offices from operating. So, either public vehicles could be allowed systematically, or they should allow people to share rides on bikes.”
Stating that the government should permit office workers to share bike rides, Balami also urged people “to not misuse such permission by travelling for non-essential work like outing.
And commuters also need to take care of their safety themselves while commuting.”
Despite strict rules being implemented to ensure public safety in the relaxed lockdown, the Kathmandu Metropolitan Traffic Police Division revealed that the number of drivers violating the rules has reached 772, including 575 in two-wheelers and 194 in four-wheelers as of June 16.
A version of this article appears in e-paper on June 18, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.