Dhaka city traffic slowed to a crawl on Tuesday as the Awami League and the BNP marched on the major streets in the capital.
The effects of the political events could be felt in the congestion throughout the city, but occasionally pockets of space would open up that allowed vehicles to move swiftly down clear roads.
The BNP started gathering in Gabtoli in the morning, starting the day with heavy traffic for commuters. Party activists and leaders began to gather at 9:30am and by 10:30am, traffic in the area was only one direction. However, after 11am, traffic came to a halt in both directions for about an hour.
The congestion in Gabtoli was mirrored by the logjams created by vehicles trying to enter the city by the Dhaka-Aricha Highway.
At 10:30am, Md Ismail, a helper on a Labbaik Paribahan bus in Kalyanpur, said they were not able to complete their trip to Gabtoli and instead turned away at Majar Road due to the traffic.
Traffic tailback stretched nearly two kilometres on the road from Gabtoli to Savar’s Salehpur Bridge, according to our Savar Correspondent.
Dhaka District North Traffic Inspector (Administration) Hossain Shahid Chowdhury said that due to the BNP’s march there was some traffic jam on the Dhaka-bound lane of the Dhaka-Aricha highway until the Aminbazar area.
The BNP march left Gabtoli and proceeded towards Mirpur through the technical junction. The traffic jam started to increase in the wake of the procession. The road was empty on the way to Gabtoli and Shyamoli, but the people of Mirpur were affected by the traffic congestion.
City residents faced heavy congestion and a lack of public transport as the BNP march passed the Mirpur-1 and Mirpur-10 roundabouts, Bijay Sarani, Moghbazar, Paltan and Motijheel on the way to Raisaheb Bazar intersection in Old Dhaka.
The procession started at 11am and ended at Raisaheb Bazar junction near Bahadur Shah Park at 6pm.
The extended march through Dhaka’s main thoroughfares led to gridlock in the traffic congestion in the Mirpur and Agargaon areas throughout the afternoon and also affected the road from Dhaka airport to Banani.
Roads in nearby areas were also clogged as traffic ground to a halt. But in other parts of the city, the roads were clear.
Around 1:30pm, ride-sharing motorcycle driver Mostakim said he had gone from Kakrail to Mohammadpur and come back to Mohakhali in a short period of time as the road was clear.
Traffic police blocked the three-way Bijay Sarani Road when the long march of thousands of activists crossed it around 3:30pm. This led to a traffic standstill on many nearby roads.
Salahuddin, a traffic police officer working in Mohakhali, told bdnews24.com that the Farmgate and Mirpur-bound vehicles were stuck in Mohakhali for over 10 minutes due to the road being blocked while the procession was crossing Mohakhali. Once the procession passed, everything returned to normal.
When the procession reached Paltan and Motijheel in the afternoon, the traffic slowed in the area. The traffic moved as normal on one side of the road, while the other crawled along behind the marching party activists. The slow pace of traffic caused difficulties for commuters heading home after work.
Around this time, activists started coming from all over to join the procession from the Engineers Institution in Ramna.
The combination of the BNP march and the procession from the Engineers Institute brought roads from Shahbagh, from the Fisheries Building to Kakrail, Paltan, Motijheel, Tikatuli and Moghbazar, Malibagh, and the central parts of the city almost came to a standstill.
There was particularly intense gridlock in front of the Fisheries Building. As the Awami League activists started their march, vehicles on both sides of the road were blocked for quite some time.
One bus passenger said he was happy that he had left Mirpur early.
The bus travelled quite a distance before it got stuck near the Kakrail Mosque, he said, but it hadn’t moved in an hour. He worried he would get sick from the heat.
Even as the traffic stalled in front of the Fisheries Building, Moghbazar was clear of traffic.
Asked about the issue, traffic policeman Zakir Hossain said, “There’s a political programme ahead and so we are blocking the traffic. That is why the lines are just getting longer.”
Ramna Division Deputy Commissioner (Traffic) Zainul Abedin told bdnews24.com that there was no more traffic problems near the Fisheries Building, Shahbagh, or Sciencelab road after 7:30pm.
The police traffic control room said many roads were blocked during the processions, leading to traffic.
After the BNP march passed there was some traffic congestion for a while, but the road was completely clear in the other direction, Assistant Commissioner of Tejgaon Division of Traffic Police Tarek Sekendar said around 3pm.
Many Dhaka residents had feared that Dhaka traffic would be heavily affected by the competing political programmes announced by the two major parties on Tuesday. As such, many had made plans to counteract the disruption. Some international, corporate, and private development organisations informed workers on Monday that they could work from home. As a result, there were fewer people on the streets than usual.
Few buses seemed to be operating on certain routes. At other times, several buses run the Moghbazar to Mohakhali route, but few were making the trip on Tuesday. Autorickshaw drivers jumped on the opportunity provided by the BNP procession crossing Bijoy Sarani by hiking their prices.
After an extended wait for a bus, Noman and his sister Nafisa gave up. Nafisa said there were no buses on the road.
"My elder sister's house is in Banani. We are trying to get there, but can’t find transport. We will take a CNG, but when I hear the price, I just want to run away.”