Friday, September 11, 2009

City roads

City like a human is a living system. Just as vessels carry life sustaining blood throughout the human body, so must city roads freely transport humans and goods. If the artery gets blocked at any point, the city life, like the heart, loses its rhythm failing to function normally.

If humans and goods could drift with order and without interruption the inhabitants would be less stressed, calmer and friendlier towards each other and the city’s productivity per hour would increase accordingly. The minimum requirement for a normal traffic condition in a city is readable street signs and clear traffic rules.
Every city that has a normal life constantly works at creating this free flow and therefore has mutually supporting streets and avenues where traffic of pedestrians and vehicles are consistently in sync.

There are plans of cities that have remarkably coordinated the daily traffic of millions of people. While Paris and Washington’s are similar with the roads, radiate from rings spread around the city, almost all other American cities follow a grid system. Horizontal roads are called streets and vertical roads are called avenues. It is a simple logic that the magisterial of heating, drinking and sewage waters run underneath these streets along with the auxiliary lines. All horizontal highways are even numbered while the vertical ones are odd numbered. This whole plan is a big contribution to making the business of the city residents more productive and competitive.
Yet, how does our Ulaanbaatar city look? Saying the truth of the matter feels like poring salt on the wound. City residents’ patience is running out. Our transportation does not move forward even though it has a wheel and if it does, it jumps like a grasshopper. Reaching any destination in Ulaanbaatar city is like participating in an off road rally. After a certain time of joggling and shaking, we jump out of our car as if electrocuted with disheveled hair and half a mind. Feeling lucky that another car skimming by has not run us over, we head toward our intended direction.

Ulaanbaatar’s residents will never be able to live properly without finding out and removing the reasons behind this situation. Absence of a city plan, disastrous scales of land corruption and irresponsibility of the governing authorities are especially prominent reasons among many.
There is no planning of Ulaanbaatar city. There are only some top officials who say that there is, by looking at some false, dummy drawings on their office walls. There is no one who knows where the major roads go, when we need to check the conditions and allow maintenance. These exterminators wake up only when the road cannot be used any more, and the bridge has cracked. Their first measure is to block the road and stop all traffic and to show the mighty power of the state. They have been asking for money abroad to construct a road connecting Asia and Europe across Mongolia. Yet, in order to repair the only bridge, BayanZurkh, on this road in Ulaanbaatar city, they have diverted the traffic off road across the skirts of the Bogd Mountain. They have not prepared accordingly. The resulting traffic makes such a huge cloud of dust that it is impossible to see the front of the car. Soon this dust cloud combined with the traditional winter smog curtains will make it hard to find the city, let alone our homes.
Land corruption has really overindulged. Children’s playgrounds, city parks and other public spaces including so called protected areas have been all basically “sold out.” Now our officials have moved on to giving out the city roads. Out of thousands of cases, the road west of the Central Post Office which used to connect the Stock Exchange side road with the main avenue has now become a construction site, blocking the traffic like in “Zelter’s Trap,” from a popular Mongolian movie “Ugluu.”
In spite of many years’ strong protests of citizens against the situations described above, none of the city top executives is held responsible for these corrupt actions. As we say “goat horns never reach the sky.” Instead they keep climbing to higher positions as if worst performance gets highest award. Because the mayor of the city is not elected by Ulaanbaatar’s residents, instead nominated by a political party, he and his employees’ main purpose is to bring revenue and make donations to their own party, not necessarily to serve the citizens.
Dear Mayor,

We, the citizens of this city would like to walk and drive peacefully on our roads at anytime we need and reach our homes alive in one piece. We know and understand well that Ulaanbaatar will not be like Paris overnight. But please do perform, at least sometimes, like a real Mayor of a city should.

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