Police eye Ubud’s motorists

Gone are the days when a foreigner could speed on a rented scooter along Ubud’s streets without a helmet, or a local youth could drive against the traffic on a one-way road. Gianyar’s traffic police chief has declared that she will turn Ubud into a model of safe and good driving behavior. “Increasing people’s awareness of safe driving and riding practices is the critical first step in preventing road accidents,” Adj. Comr. Putu Sugiartini said, pointing out that of the total 362 traffic accidents recorded in the regency in 2012, 143 were triggered by traffic violations, including motorcyclists and drivers who didn’t abide by road signs.

Known to her former officers in the Denpasar Police as a tough chief, who walks the walk and regularly worked 17-hour shifts patrolling the streets, Sugiartini was transferred to Gianyar seven months ago and soon set her eyes on the chaotic traffic of Ubud, the regency’s tourism hub. Severe traffic jams, double- and often triple-parking and jaywalking were daily fare for the locals and visitors. Safety helmets were an exception not the norm and people treated a one-way street as a three-lane highway. “Ubud is one of the most important tourist destinations on the island and it was plagued by bad traffic.

Moreover, foreign visitors and expatriates were influenced by the locals’ habit of not wearing a helmet and ignoring traffic regulations,” she recalled. Sugiartini launched the first step of her campaign to restore order to Ubud’s streets by deploying more officers to the famed town and ordering them to enforce the regulations. The success of this first step highlighted the importance of police presence. A local resident, Putu Ekaputra, pointed out that nobody had ever paid any attention to the stop sign at the corner of Jl. Raya Ubud and Jl. Hanoman, which clearly marks the stretch of road west of the sign as a one-way street.

“Motorists coming from the east simply ignored the sign and drove forward to the west instead of turning left because there were no police around and they believed that it was the quickest route to reach central Ubud. Eventually, they got stuck in front of the market and aggravated the gridlock at the Ubud Palace intersection.” Sugiartini’s men arranged a temporary barrier made of concrete blocks next to the sign, draped it with a banner stating in bold letters that oncoming motorists must take a left turn and manned the site during rush hour. It was an effective strategy. “People tend to abide by the law when they see the presence of police.

Curiously, the motorists tend to have a better response to a warning issued by a police woman. They often are very defensive and antagonistic when reprimanded by a male officer,” she said. Sugiartini then took the campaign to the next level. With the blessing of the Ubud village chief, she transformed the village’s main intersection — the one next to the Ubud Palace — into a no traffic violation zone, as well as the site of a zebra crossing revitalization. A huge billboard urging motorists to pioneer safe driving was installed and portable wooden signs stating “Pedestrians cross here” in English, Japanese and Korean, were placed next to the four zebra crossings at the intersection.

“We help people and tourists crossing the streets at the correct places in the hope of increasing their awareness of the long-neglected zebra crossing to instill good traffic practice,” an on-duty policeman, Wayan Suardika, said before stopping a foreign woman, who was riding a motorbike against the traffic with her little boy and neither of them were wearing a helmet. He reprimanded the woman, asking her to put on her helmet and telling her to obey the regulation for her own safety. He did that in broken but very convincing English. “We have established similar zebra crossings and no violation zones in several places across the regency and, hopefully, it will play a role in pushing down traffic accidents,” Sugiartini said. In 2012, 72 people were killed and 576 injured in traffic accidents in Gianyar. The fatalities were fewer than those recorded in 2011.

source : bali daily

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