Praise the traffic regulators
Owning a car in Ulaanbaatar is not what it used to be a couple of years ago.
According to the latest statistics, there are roughly enough vehicles for one in five people in the country and around 80-90 percent of them are used in Ulaanbaatar, which makes the traffic congestion and car related frustration in the city unsurprising.
There are so many car related problems, such as bad roads, finding parking spaces in the city, terrible traffic congestion, outrageous taxation, high fuel prices (compared to other countries), horrible drivers, and trying to find a warm garage in the winter, among other things.
While driving in the city lately, I noticed something rather pleasantly surprising – drivers seemed to be a lot more civil and adherent to traffic regulations. This was no coincidence however, as the traffic police have been avidly implementing the regulations which were largely perceived as mere suggestions rather than unbending rules.
This year, the capital city has been taking significant efforts towards taking control and managing the increasing traffic in the city. Mayor E.Bat-Uul and his fellow higher officials have received much criticism for their controversial license plate restrictions imposed on the city’s car owners, where certain plate numbered cars cannot be used on particular week days.
Admittedly, I was also critical of the new regulations, which would limit some whose business is dependent on their vehicles. Each week day, around 20,000 cars are restricted from use between 08:00-22:00. Which means there are roughly 100,000 registered vehicles using Ulaanbaatar’s limited road infrastructure and parking spaces.
After the installation of traffic cameras and speedometers in the heavily trafficked areas of the capital, hundreds of drivers were fined directly to their home address for speeding and red light crossing violations, according to the Traffic Police of Ulaanbaatar.
But despite the increasingly civil usage of vehicles and roads in the capital, drivers are more frustrated and critical of the new developments, which limit their ability to use their cars. They also note that traffic police are more ready to impose fines and tickets for the mildest of traffic violations.
The largest amount of road construction and reconstruction in Mongolia’s history has been executed this year. Much to the frustration of drivers around the city, some critical central roads had to be reconstructed simultaneously. City administration assures that this year’s reconstruction work has been done with high standards.
Due to the extreme climate, roads deteriorate rather quickly. Roads built just a year before are cracked and broken down by the next spring. This is usually observable and easily explained. Road construction projects that begin in late August tend to drag on until October for various reasons, and when the cold weather hits, the construction material used to build it has not properly cured. After an intense couple months of Mongolian winter, they are broken and in need of repair once again. Most roads in Mongolia aren’t built with water removal systems. After a heavy rain, the roads are left with depressions and cracks as water floods and seeps through them.
There are other factors contributing to the fast deterioration of our roads, the above being the main one. With the development of mines and large scale construction projects, heavy trucks are used on roads not designed to sustain them, which contributes greatly to air pollution via dust as well as road deterioration. Road experts also claim that winter tires have deeper grooves, which also play a part in road damage.
Although rather extreme measures are taken on the part of traffic regulators, they are slowly paying off. Better roads are being built, and drivers are slowly beginning to adapt and follow traffic regulations, leading to altogether safer road and traffic activity. Managing traffic in a city that lacks infrastructure is not easy, and some sacrifices on the part of vehicle owners and traffic regulators have to be made to improve the system in the long run.
So, if the only good road leading to your home is closed at night for repair, take comfort in the knowledge that after a short period of time, getting home will be much easier than before.
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