Jaywalkers, lane breakers, tail-gaters, fast riders, and slow ones. Anyone familiar with the streets of Maldives’ five-kilometer capital, Malé City, knows that it has a selection of all these beasts.
Malé City is one of the most densely populated islands in the world, and anyone who walks on its streets are horridly and unwelcomingly made aware of this. Narrow or wide street alike, is subject to minutes-long traffic jams – where the less press their fingers to their vehicle’s horn as if they were trying to permanently imprint it on their skin, mostly to no avail. A four-wheeler is the two-wheeler’s worst nightmare,
A pedestrian that wishes to cross the street is made to wait at least a few minutes before they can find a ‘safe-enough’ opening for them finally step off the pavement and on to the street.
Driving and riding in Malé City is a different type of game entirely, one where no rules apply and one just does what makes sense – you see an opening? Take it – with no mind to lanes or road signs.
Not only do riders have to be mindful of the occasional careless pedestrian leaping on to the street and crossing as fast as he can, leaving their life in your hands but also of the parked vehicles – which seem to follow no particular pattern. This, despite several officers spending numerous hours placing stickers on vehicles that violate traffic regulations.
The current government has attempted to add a method to this madness by bringing changes to traffic flows, like blocking off roads to vehicles and making roads two-way streets or building platforms to separate lanes.
The roads around the Islamic Centre in central Malé are set to be pedestrianized in an effort to relieve traffic congestion and to allow the use of the adjacent Republic Square for mass prayers, the ministry of housing has said in August last year.
Similarly, several roads have been pedestrianized in the government’s bid to make them more ‘children-friendly’ with parents being allowed to let their children play and roam without the threat of potentially being runover.