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Everyone loses when competing for road space

Dear Editor,

After reading your article "Accidents up over Chinese New Year" published Wednesday, I would like to share my own observations about Phnom Penh's traffic.

Who owns the road?

Driving on Phnom Penh's roads is quite confusing. This does not mean there are no road signs, traffic lights or police instructions. It means that road users do not respect one another's rights - most usually compete with each other for space on the roads.

Car and motorbike drivers are the two dominant competitors. It is common to see them using the wrong lanes. They cross each other's lanes and never care about their position on the road, meaning motorbikes are in car lanes and vice versa. But the worst case is when cars and motorbikes take over pedestrian routes. This causes confusion among pedestrians and drivers, and accidents are usually caused due to disrespect for the rights of pedestrians.

Cyclists and pedestrians are the losers in this road competition often because cyclists do not have their own lanes. They usually use the same routes as their fellow motorbike or car drivers. This has created an environment in which riding a bicycle is difficult and dangerous, and for pedestrians it is even harder. They are often forced to walk on streets where traffic is heavy. Drivers blow their horns at them to move out of the way, but sometimes they are hit.

Pedestrian paths are stolen by house and shop owners along our roads. These owners usually block the pedestrian's path with their personal business, such as their parked vehicles or expanded shopfront. Sometimes they even claim the road in front of their houses as their own property, banning everyone from parking vehicles.              

As long as people compete for road space and continue to disrespect traffic laws, we will all be losers. Clearly, no one benefits when faced with traffic accidents.

People need to know their rights on the road, but if they don't then the authorities need to step in. The recent helmet safety campaign is a good example of intervention by the authorities.   

Meas Bunly

Phnom Penh

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