When on Saturday, 1 February, the Lagos State Government commenced the enforcement of the ban on commercial motorcycles (okada) and commercial tricycles (keke NAPEP) on some major roads and highways in the state, the perennial traffic on Lagos roads escalated beyond imagination.
The gridlock was everywhere – from the island to the mainland, the traffic was hellish. Also, as a result of the absence of the motorbikes and tricycles on many of the routes, hundreds of commuters were stranded at bus stops and many resorted to trekking long distances to get to their destinations.
Even though the situation has improved a little as commuters and transporters begin to adjust to the ban, the fact is that commuting in Lagos is as tough as ever. Most times, you just have to gird your loins and get on with it. Some people have said that the traffic situation has been compounded by the many ongoing road construction works being undertaken by the state government and that the situation will improve when these constructions are completed. However, time will tell if that is correct. One thing that is clear however is that Lagos and traffic have more or less been conjoined twins for years.
A more interesting aspect is that Lagos traffic can humble anybody. It is one phenomenon that brings virtually all inhabitants of the city to the same level, as both the rich in their big cars and the regular citizens in all sorts of vehicles regularly endure the same traffic gridlock for hours. It doesn’t matter how many years you have spent in the city of Lagos, the regular gridlocks within the metropolis still takes a lot out of you, no matter how much you think you have become used to it. The long hours in traffic undoubtedly constitute a major source of mental and physical stress for many people in the city.
I have a friend and colleague living in Isawo town in Ikorodu. For several years now, he has been leaving his house about 4:30 am every day in order to avoid traffic jam and get to the office in Maryland early. I have spoken to him a few times about the inherent danger in leaving home at that ungodly hour and his explanation is same every time: he just wants to escape the stress of traffic and the tough challenge of struggling for vehicles. Yet, despite his effort to escape the traffic problem, he still occasionally ends up being caught in it.
It has become more apparent that while the Lagos State government continues to find ways to transform the transportation system in the state to suit the vision of the mega city the government says it is trying to build, people and, particularly, commuters in the city, must begin to find ways to cope with the traffic challenge because it is clear that it is not going to be resolved anytime soon.
The first step that should be considered to escape traffic is for commuters to always plan their movement and leave early for their appointments, preferably before the rush hour when a lot more people will be on the road. The downside of this is having to leave home at ungodly hours like my friend, but it is a sacrifice that has to be considered and weighed against its demerits.
Another way of dealing with this is to make use of Google maps, as well as some transport apps and social media handles giving transport information on the fastest routes to follow to avoid traffic jam. I regularly make use of these, as they can be quite invaluable when used properly. They have saved me from being trapped in traffic on a number of occasions.
Cultivating the habit of listening to and enjoying music when in traffic is another way to deal with traffic stress. You can listen to music in your car if you are driving or listen with an earpiece connected to your phone if you are in commercial vehicles. With the music of your choice at a decent volume, you can take your mind off the gridlock until you get to your destination.
Nevertheless, there is always the option of trekking to your destination if it is not far. Brisk walking is always a great way to exercise and it costs you nothing – well, except sometimes the discomforts that come with an aching joint. Whatever the option you settle for to cope, just know that being agitated, angry or frustrated is of no help when you are in Lagos traffic. You get nothing from that aside from increasing your stress level.