Are you a commuter in Lagos? Then you are probably having a hellish couple of weeks. If you consider that heavy traffic has been a way of life in this city for years, the dangerous effects of the worsening over the last several days would be glaringly obvious.
Octobers are largely expected to usher in the dry season but this year, the rains in the month have been giving that of March and a June a run for their drops. Heavy rains expose the quality of construction work present in many parts of the city.
The indiscriminate dumping of the refuse chief of which are Styrofoam food packs and soft drink bottles in the drainage channels cause blockages. Hence rainwater does not have anywhere to go in an already precariously situated state where much of the land is at or slightly under sea level. The pooling of this water on the roads adds to the existing pressure of too many vehicles, leading to potholes that make motorists slow down.
Add this to the poor road behaviour of many Lagos motorists, the stop-and-checks by road officials and the inexplicable standstill at notorious stops like Apongbon and you get a nightmare.
Journeys that take 20 minutes already last an hour. But recently these transit times have tripled to 3 hours. The result? People open shops late, spend 6 hours of their day commuting to and from work, miss important meetings and appointments, get queries at work, and are even more likely to get robbed by hoodlums who take advantage of the situation.
These pile up in a medley of frustration, waste of time and stress and are enough pointers to the fact that it takes a hugely negative toll on health. Have you witnessed motorists in the thick of road rage? There is no way that can be good for mental health either.
Living in big cities has its perks. You get access to more amenities. However, there are downsides to it. One of these is traffic. People in Lagos, in particular, have tales of their terrible daily experience with transport. With millions of people moving to and from work every day on inadequate roads, traffic congestion often ensues and this gets worse at certain times of the day.
The Effects of Traffic on Health
Firstly, the close proximity of many cars increases air pollution. Gases from the exhaust pipes of these vehicles have little room to dissipate. They immediately fill the air in nearby cars putting everyone at risk of respiratory conditions.
People who have respiratory conditions like asthma are at higher risk of breathing difficulties. There is thus a need to keep their inhalers handy and protect themselves by covering the nose with a face mask or clean handkerchief.
The stress of navigating narrow roads, avoiding accidents and dealing with other road users compounds the rigours of city living and contributes to elevated blood pressure.
The consequent waste of valuable time and loss in productivity can make people more irritable and affect mental wellbeing. Spending long hours in traffic also cuts down the number of time people in big cities sleep. They get home hours after the close of work and leave early to avoid the morning rush hour. Now imagine a decade or two of this cycle day in day out. The detrimental effects on the body are numerous.
Sitting in traffic for long disrupts blood flow especially to the legs. It is often unsafe or outright impossible to get down after a couple of hours and stretch the legs. There is an associated increase in the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The long hours of sitting in and being thrown about by your info navigating massive war-zone craters without adequate legroom also lead to back pain. Can you imagine what pregnant women and the sick go through?
What can be done
Efforts need to be made for employers to consider more flexible work hours and for better traffic management and information systems as traffic congestion is an issue of public health. Knowing the danger of traffic can assist you in planning your activities in a way that helps you avoid the worst of it. Some applications and social media accounts exist to keep you informed of traffic patterns and have been helpful in reducing the time commuters who use them spend in traffic snarls. In addition, the accelerated development of the water and rail transport more than their current capacity would greatly reduce the burden on the roads and save the wellbeing and lives of Lagosians.