There may soon be cement pedestrian bridges crossing over Phnom Penh’s teeming boulevards and roads in the latest effort to cut accident casualty rates.
An average of three people die in traffic accidents every day in Cambodia, according to Pao Maly, deputy director general for the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation.
In July, Prime Minister Hun Sen signed an order creating a committee to study plans for the Cambodia Quarry Company to build the walkways. The committee is charged with researching locations and environmental impacts of the project.
Plans are to construct three test bridges over Monivong, Norodom and Russian boulevards, said Heng Vantha, Phnom Penh municipal deputy cabinet chief.
Opposition lawmaker Keo Remy said he proposed walkways in front of public schools, garment factories, hospitals and Phnom Penh International Airport in 2004, but was told to wait for road improvements first.
Keo Remy emphasized the beautiful view of the city from the pedestrian bridges: “[People] can stay and look…especially in the evening, with the sunset.”
Meas Chandy, road safety project officer for Handicap International, said that walkways may help with congestion and accidents, but they aren’t the highest priority.
“First the government must have an effective law,” he said. “Secondly, an effective law is never done without enforcement.”
The current traffic law was adopted in 1991, providing for penalties such as a paltry maximum fine of 12,000 riel ($3) for drunk driving.
Improved traffic legislation sent to the National Assembly close to the end of the 1993-98 term was forgotten amid elections and bounced back to the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, Keo Remy said.
“I don’t know why they send it back and forth,” he added.
Road improvement projects don’t always cut down on casualties; even Phnom Penh’s concrete dividers, intended to smooth the flow of traffic, have proved hazardous in the dark to unobservant motorists. With Handicap International estimating annual traffic growth at 20 percent in Phnom Penh, pedestrians will have to continue to dodge and weave.