Raised in the sweltering bustle of the Mumbai streets among 18 million fellow commuters, Ebrahim Shahiwala was hardly fazed stepping in to redirect a meagre Auckland traffic jam.
Following a major car accident on May 29 that left the arterial Lake Rd in Takapuna closed by police in afternoon peak traffic, Auckland’s entire North Shore peninsula became highly congested.
After picking up his granddaughter from school, Shahiwala joined Devonport resident Hannah Cornwell in directing competing motorists for the next two hours.
Despite the duration of his effort, the 67-year-old Shahiwala had some calming words for the average irate Auckland commuter.
“This is nothing, nothing. I’m from Bombay [Mumbai] where there’s heavy traffic, and a lot of chaos,” Shahiwala said.
“Auckland traffic is wonderful, wonderful well disciplined people, very cooperative. You don’t find that kind of cooperation over there [India], with the population.
“Bombay traffic would be difficult to manage, no one would listen to you, except to policemen. Or you’d have to come out as a group, five, six people and forcefully you do it.”
Shahiwala was also extremely complimentary of his traffic-directing partner Cornwell, who was herself just a passing motorist.
“I was going to call 111 and she said, ‘no, we’ll manage’. But she was a lovely lady. I don’t know who she was, I still don’t know, she was really a great lady.”
Of the motorists themselves, Shahiwala was a tad more reserved in his opinion.
“You know the line-up there of cars was jam-packed. Some of the people were acknowledging, saying ‘thanks’, some were saying ‘we’re getting late, we’re getting late’. Ok it happens, it is a part of life,” Shahiwala said.
The car accident which caused the traffic jam on Northboro Rd, parallel to Lake Rd, left a pedestrian in a serious condition at Auckland City Hospital on May 29.
A running commentary of the North Shore traffic conditions on Neighbourly.co.nz following the May 29 crash, which occurred around 3pm, applauded the initiative of Cornwell and Shahiwala.
Belmont resident Rebecca Essex questioned why a council traffic control team could not respond to road emergencies with the same promptness that Cornwell did.
“It amazes me why, at the same time the police are alerted, that another car with a ‘diversion team’ can not immediately start to deal with the traffic, creating detours and the likes, which Hannah Cornwell did on her own, proving with no more than a high viz vest, one person can get hundreds of cars moving,” Essex wrote.
“This should be stock standard procedure for all incidents on high volume routes. The council could commission a $200k report on it, or maybe just ask Hannah.”