Chaos, accidents as commercial, private vehicles overstep BRT lanes — Sunday Magazine — The Guardian Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News
• Enforcement Officers Look Away As Non-BRT Buses Ply Lanes
When in 2008, the Lagos State government established the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), it was for easy navigation, and to fast-track residents’ movement in, and around the state, as well as to ensure a clean, affordable, and reliable means of public transportation.
But the BRT scheme, which is now in its 14th year, has raised diverse concerns among the populace. Key among them are its modus operandi, drivers’ attitude on the road, rate of accidents on the BRT lanes, as well as the lanes’ design.
Initially slated for opening in November 2007, records available show that the first phase of the BRT eventually opened on March 17, 2008.
The administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu initiated the BRT project, which originally ran from Mile 12 through Ikorodu Road and Funsho Williams Avenue up to CMS. The second phase of BRT implementation saw the service being extended from Mile 12 to Ikorodu.
While the Babatunde Fashola-led administration constructed the Ikorodu to CMS lane, as well as the Orile to Trade Fair lane on the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration approved the construction of a new BRT corridor along Oshodi to Abule-Egba, and it was under the supervision of Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA).
As part of preparations for a smooth takeoff of operations, enormous infrastructure and logistics were put in place. For instance, 26 bus shelters were in place along the Mile 12-CMS road; three bus terminals along the corridor (at Mile 12, Moshalashi, and CMS), while the bus terminal at CMS was designed to integrate and blend with diverse transport modes including rail and ferry services.
As of October 2018, a total of 800 buses were delivered from the first pack, while hundreds more joined the fleet to ensure seamless operations.
The BRT service powered by Primero Transport Services Ltd, which operates on over 25 routes, not long ago, lowered fares for a trip from Ikorodu to the TBS corridor because of the present realities.
Under Ambode, it activated a digital electronic payment system, using an access control system too, while the incumbent administration approved the creation of a specialised security team to oversee and enforce sanity in the BRT system, as well as ensure the safety of other transportation facilities. This was after a series of challenges surfaced in the cause of its operations.
But despite the creation of a special purpose team to enforce compliance, and curb motorists, especially commercial drivers from plying BRT lanes, the goal has not been achieved as evidenced by what is happening on some of the corridors.
Operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) deployed to the Mile 2-Orile section of the Orile-Badagry Expressway, largely carried out their assignment in the breach. Consequently, road users now suffer the consequence of the special team’s dereliction of duty.
Now, commercial buses and motorcyclists not only ply the BRT indiscriminately, but they also drive against traffic within and outside the lanes, from Orile to Mile 2.
At Suru and Orile bus stops where this happens routinely, two RRS trucks are usually stationed ostensibly to apprehend defaulters or prevent commercial bus drivers and motorcyclists from plying the BRT lane. But affected officers often do not live up to expectations.
Since these transporters drive against traffic within the BRT lane, the space left for vehicles that are heading to Orile is severely constrained, thereby obstructing the free flow of traffic. This often leads to chaotic traffic situations, and sometimes accidents especially in Mile 2, Suru, Alaba, and Orile.
Last Wednesday, it was also observed that apart from the two RRS trucks that are stationed on the BRT lane, about five other RRS cars and trucks were stationed at Orile with the inscription, “anti-one way” on some of the vehicles.
A resident of the area, Itunu Ojo lamented that security operatives deployed to the area to facilitate the free flow of traffic and ensure compliance are, by their actions and inaction, inflicting pain on motorists and commuters who ply the route.
“In Mile 2, Suru and Orile, a journey that should be complete in a minute, now takes between five to 10 minutes because, apart from vehicles driving against traffic, commercial buses stay in the middle of the road to pick up or discharge passengers. All these are responsible for the slow and chaotic traffic on that corridor. But the police officers that are on duty there are not doing enough to help matters,” Ojo said.
Even though residents attest to the ease of moving around the state via BRT, some pedestrians have been knocked down by the buses as they attempt to dash across lanes, especially where there are no pedestrian bridges. Others have been knocked down by erring motorists who defy government warnings and ply the lanes.
Among some of the accidents involving pedestrians on BRT lanes are the ones that claimed the life of a primary school pupil at Ogoloto Bus Stop, Ikorodu Road, in March 2018.
In July 2020, a businessman, Ahmed Sulaiman, who was trying to cross the BRT lane in Owode, Onirin area of Mile 12 was crushed to death by a BRT driver.
Also, this month, a young man died after he was knocked down on the BRT lane while trying to cross the road at Mangoro Bus Stop on the Lagos –Abeokuta Expressway. He died from injuries sustained from the incident.
There was also an incident around Ile Zik Bus Stop inward Iyana-ipaja that did not involve any loss of lives, but a BRT bus dragged a motorcyclist and his two passengers on the floor for several metres before rescue came.
Mr. Akintola Joseph, a resident of the Mangoro area of the state implored the state government to find a lasting solution to the frequent accidents on BRT lanes as lives were being lost.
Joseph noted that the government should have constructed a wire mesh to barricade the lanes, while also serving as a safety measure to prevent people from straying into the BRT corridors.
For another resident, Aliu Kolade, part of what is responsible for the chaotic traffic on BRT lanes is the width of the tracks around some designated bus stops, which are usually bigger than the remaining part of the road. He cited examples of the size of the BRT lane at Mangoro, Ikeja along, PWD, among others as leaving only a little space for all other vehicles to navigate.
A safety expert, Patrick Adenusi, implores the government to put in place a system that would ensure the safety of residents so that they do not get endangered for straying into BRT lanes.
He suggested that the state government should inscribe on the BRT lane, the maximum speed limit that the drivers must apply, and should enforce the same as one of the measures to halt incessant accidents.
Adenusi added that the government should also introduce speed breakers on BRT lanes, especially in places where a high number of commuters cross, but with no pedestrian bridges.
When the comment of the Commander of the Lagos RRS, Yinka Egbeyemi was sought over the conduct of his men around the Orile and Mile 2 areas, he claimed that his officers were deployed to ensure that residents do not trade within the rail track, and not to stop private and commercial vehicles from plying the BRT lanes.
He further said that there were two other organisations that are deployed to ensure sanity on and around the BRT lanes, while the RRS is to prevent trading on the train track.
He added that the taskforce team was meant to arrest those driving against traffic, and a special police team attached to LAMATA has the responsibility of going against those riding on BRT lanes.
He, therefore, maintained that his lieutenants were doing strictly what they were deployed to do.
The Public Relations Officer of LAMATA, Kola Ojelabi, who was also contacted, regretted that commercial vehicle drivers have been driving against traffic on the corridor despite the state traffic law kicking against such.
“And I disagree with you when you claim that officers deployed in these areas are not doing what they are supposed to do. We need to have an official report of the situation on the ground there before we can rightfully say that they are not doing the right thing. If vehicles are driving against the traffic, it has been there for a long time and if the RRS is there, it is also their responsibility to ensure that people do not drive one way. It is a joint effort, as the RRS is also part of the policing team in the state. So, we need a specific report to look at the issue, and do something about it,” Ojelabi said.
Commenting on the accidents and sundry incidents recorded on BRT lanes in the state, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotosho, stated that the government made provisions to curb danger in and around BRT facilities, among which are pedestrians’ bridges to ensure safety.
Said he: “Pedestrian bridges cannot be at every metre of the road. The government has always been advocating that pedestrians should use these bridges instead of crossing the road, which can be detrimental to their lives.”
On the width of some BRT lanes, he noted that the marking of the lane was done in accordance with international best practices, but if anyone felt that the markings are not done properly, or were causing traffic snarl anywhere in the state, (which he doubted), “such persons have the right to complain, and the government would look into their complaints promptly.
On the absence of reflector signs on most concrete curbs that divide the BRT lanes from the rest of the road, Omotoso said: “Most motorists are familiar with these indicators, but they are always in a hurry, and in some instances, concrete barricades to demarcate the BRT lane are pulled down by motorists.”