The Sunday Leader

Curbing The Three-Wheeler Menace

by Ifham Nizam

Prasanna Solangaarachchi

The biggest gift India gave to the island nation is the Buddhist philosophy; likewise in my opinion, the bad thing we Sri Lankans have got from India is the three-wheelers,” says Presidential Special Projects Director and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) chief organiser for the Kolonnawa electorate Prasanna Solangaarachchi.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, he said he would strongly take up the three-wheeler menace with President Maithripala Sirisena and make sure that three-wheeler licenses are given only to those above 35 years of age. “Of course, those who have licenses below 35 could also continue, but they too would be required to become much more responsible once this law comes into effect,” he stressed.

He says he is not against three-wheeler drivers, especially those who above 35, because most of them are responsible and do their best for the society. The other side of the coin, he says, are those who try to enter the trade immediately after leaving school.

“Needless to say, out of the twelve hours or so they spend, only three hours are utilised…this cannot happen as youth productivity is wasted. One could imagine the number of hours wasted by the so-called productivity group in the country,” he said

He also expressed concern over the consequences of youngsters getting into three-wheeler driving, citing examples of a small percentage getting involved with nefarious activities such as giving a helping hand to drug peddlers, prostitutes and so on.

Plans are under way to set up a strong people movement against the three-wheeler trade which has robbed the youths’ economic potential and is on the verge of killing vocational training in the country.

“Our social system is such when a man is a welder or mason, the parents are reluctant to give their daughters in marriage; mind you a carpenter, a mason or a welder earns more than Rs. 100,000 a month, whereas those in clean suits earn much less. The other major issue is giving a three-wheeler as a dowry…this leads the son in law to technically become a three wheeler driver after marriage; this is a sad situation in a country like ours where there is so much potential in vocational and productivity training,” he said.

Sri Lanka has more than one million three-wheelers of which most of are driven by youth aged between 18 and 35.

“We had already set a vocational training centre at Orugodawatte; Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe was instrumental taking the initiative when I requested the need for a centre of this nature.  Similar projects will be initiated to save the youth from the three-wheeler menace which is destroying their future by making them poorer,” he said.

He also said that he was concerned about this matter, because he has enough experience about youth particularly coming from his electorate. “Basically those coming out of school assume that three-wheeler drivers are heroes due to their conduct and dress. We have to change this attitude; my father was an Administrative Officer at German Tech…those days’ youth would flock here to meet my dad…now nobody seems interested in vocational training. Many may criticise me, but I hope they realise I am trying to make their lives better,” he said.

He also pointed out that half of the road accidents were due to three-wheelers and almost all by those under the age of 35 years.

“It has become a grave danger to society, becoming one of the leading causes of road accidents and a centre of nefarious activities.”

“They choose the easy option of buying a three-wheeler on credit. This has resulted in destroying their livelihood and valuable time. An open dialogue should be created in society about this problem. We would also like to request the government to issue licenses only to those above 35. We will bring people including youth to the Hyde Park grounds and handover a memorandum to the President, the Prime Minister, leaders of political parties and religious leaders on this matter,” he said.

Solangaarachchi said this is the only job in which no teacher is involved. “School leavers see the three-wheeler industry as a unique sub-culture and they are attracted. They also waste around 12 to 13 hours per day and get only three to four hires a day. It is revealed that three wheeler drivers only above 45 year are disciplined and take this job seriously. In most of other developed countries, people above 45 years are engaged in this industry. We have to change this culture,” he said.

Earlier, the three-wheeler was known as the poor man’s vehicle; today, it is a vehicle which makes the youth poor.

“There are 1,000 vacancies for vocational jobs in Sri Lanka but there are no takers. Youth who received vocational training will never go wrong in life,” Solangaarachchi said.

Most of the three-wheeler drivers who spoke to The Sunday Leader said that though it is excellent concept, he should be aware of the burning issues particularly of youth.

“I agree with him when it comes to youth…my son is a three-wheeler driver like me, but he faces a number of issues; during our time it was a different story and there were only few three wheelers and most of us were very responsible when compared with the present lot…I think it is the same when it comes to any profession…people like short cuts,” says Frank Nissanka, a seasoned three-wheeler driver operating from Maligawatte. Another three wheeler driver from Hunupitiya, Wattala is thankful to his three-wheeler, saying, “I started as a teenager, now I am father of five and grandfather too…I was able to feed my family without anybody’s support thanks to the three-wheeler,” he said.

A recent paper on the effects of three-wheeler parks near intersections in the Journal of Engineering and Technology focuses on the consequences of parked three-wheelers on approaches to busy road intersections.

The paper authored by the Open University of Sri Lanka, Department of Civil Engineering Professor K. S. Weerasekera and his student U.A. Gopallawa notes that the three-wheeler is a popular mode of transport and hiring them has become a self-employment means in Sri Lanka. Three-wheeler operators obtain legally designated parking areas from the municipal councils or urban councils. Municipal councils and urban councils are in the practice of permitting three-wheelers to legally park near road intersections of congested city/town roads.

This study investigates some effects on traffic flow due to parked three-wheelers near road intersections. Five road intersections which had three-wheeler parks nearby were selected from Kandy, Matale and Kotte municipal council areas in Sri Lanka, traffic surveys were conducted, and data analysed. From the analysed data, it was seen that an increase in average delay of minor road vehicles entering the major road resulting in  a decrease in exit rate of vehicles from minor roads due to three-wheeler parks located near road intersections.

Hence, it was seen that three-wheeler parks near road intersections do have some negative effects on traffic flow. Information relating to accidents over the years near the selected road intersections was collected from relevant respective police stations. The results showed that there is an increase of accidents after implementing three-wheeler parks near road intersections.

This study stresses the deficiencies of the  currently adopted practice of improper location of three-wheeler parks near road intersections and its negative impacts. It also suggests new rules and regulations that could be developed as a suitable tool to minimise such harmful effects on traffic flow at road intersections.

It was seen that currently municipal councils and permit issuing institutions do not adhere to any proper rules or regulations when permitting three-wheeler parks near road intersections. They permit three-wheeler parks near road intersections mainly based on three-wheeler operators’ requests.

It was seen that they do not consider a technical analysis on adverse effects caused by the three-wheeler parks to the road users when issuing permission for three-wheelers parks near road intersections. To eliminate or reduce the negative impacts on the road users, and to improve traffic flows through intersections following suggestions are recommended.

According to the study results, three-wheeler parks near road intersections cause negative effects for the road users and on the traffic flow. Therefore to eliminate these harmful effects, three-wheeler parks near road intersections should not be permitted.

In case where three-wheeler parks are really necessary near intersections and if sufficient widths of the roads are available, the parking area should be at-least 100 meters away from the intersection along the minor road (currently no such distance is specified).  Municipal councils and permit issuing institutions should develop reasonable guidelines and regulations when issuing permits for locating three-wheeler parks.  At least for the congested town locations, the permit issuing process should be developed to focus for suitably locating three-wheeler parks.

6 Comments for “Curbing The Three-Wheeler Menace”

  1. k.soysa

    Introduce seat belts and remove hard metal objects from the interior of the small cabin. Ensure that the speed does not exceed 4 KMPH.

  2. kudson

    3 wheel parks near road intersections
    tell me about it
    its big business for crooked cops
    whose pockets are lined by these uneducated youngsters
    as long as crooked officials are running the Colombo Municipal Council
    law and order is a pipe dream

  3. dhamma ruwan

    Prado permits and 25 vehicle convoys – no problems, 2-3 three wheelers big issue. Me thinks its becasue not enough raw labor for VIPS to have as servants!!!

  4. lion

    How long this person will go on with this campaign?Wait,t and see once the importers get him around, he may even promote the importation.

  5. Christopher

    It is true that three wheelers are a menace. The best way to curb the menace is to ban them from the city. this would ease the traffic congestion and lesson the number of accidents in the city. It will also save the country of millions wasted for petrol and diesel due to traffic jams in the city.

  6. Ranjith Amarsinghe

    I welcome the suggestion of Mr.Prasanna Solangaarachchi .

    It is very vital to enhance the age permitted to drive 3 wheel as 35 since most of the young 3 wheel drivers are a menace on the roads to law abiding pedestrians and drivers of vehicles.
    When one starts vehicle in a traffic jam and immediately 3 wheel crosses right in front. No sense of discipline.
    Despite a very low momentum 3 wheel drivers drive at Break – neck speed disregarding the safety of occupants, pedestrians and other vehicles.
    They often speed up and jam the breaks near a road hump or near another another vehicles.
    At pedestrian crossings they do not care to stop the 3 wheel for pedestrians to cross.At any point on the road they take a U turn or cut across notwithstanding the presence of double lines .

    I recommend that another set of traffic rules are drafted for 3 wheel drivers on the road .A separate set of fines to 3 wheel drivers too should be introduced without delay before more lives are lost on the road.

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