PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Russian Boulevard is Cambodia’s most important traffic artery.
It takes traffic from Sihanoukville, from National Roads 3 and 4, from the airport, and from the Royal University of Phnom Penh and funnels it all into the heart of the city.
Russian Boulevard is so key to the capital that traffic engineers are working to set up “green waves” of traffic lights. The government is staring to build an unprecedented set of three multi-million dollar highway flyovers to speed traffic.
But, every rush hour morning, at a key traffic chokepoint – the intersection of Russian Boulevard and Hanoi Road — a handful of traffic police wade fearlessly into traffic.
Are they there to speed traffic, by waving it along?
No, they are stopping motorcyclists for not wearing helmets.
This is a noble cause. But the time and place are wrong.
In a city of one million motorcycles, a driver without a helmet is an easy catch, elsewhere.
By stopping one motorcyclist, a traffic policeman ends of up backing up traffic, forcing hundreds more drivers to “lose the light.”
At the end of the week, thousands of man (and woman) hours are lost in unnecessary traffic jams.
And judging by the folded riels and dollars that a Khmer Times reporting team watched pass from hand to hand Tuesday, it all is for the financial gain of a small group of traffic police.
The traffic police do not want to discuss this situation.
When Sem Kunthia, a high ranking office with the Phnom Penh traffic police, took a call from the Khmer Times, he said simply of the officers on Russian Boulevard: “They are doing their job.” Then, he hung up the phone.
Rather than building a fourth flyover, the government should start on the ground. They should take away the human impediments to free traffic flow.