Tuesday, August 03, 2010

No more pockmarks, leave core city alone

No more pockmarks, leave core city alone

Capt GR Gopinath



Great cities anywhere in the world leave their core part unhampered. The inner city is an ecological and economic system that ought to be preserved for a city's heritage. The beautiful Bangalore already has enough pockmarks left by 'development.' Prudence demands that it does not suffer more damage with unscientific road widening. And widening roads, it is accepted everywhere, is no lasting solution to urban growth.
Whether it is London, Paris or New York, each has a core city with its old cobble-stoned paths and pavements and underground tube. London's underground tube is 100 years old and New York's is 80 years old. They have laid ducts that do not require frequent diggings and they are working well. They do not ever talk of 'widening' the roads of inner city because it is neither advisable nor workable. Also, however much you widen the roads, vehicles will fill the gap. Do they want the entire vehicles of India to flow here?
Equally fallacious is it to say that solution to chaos and mayhem on roads is to make every road a one-way and put up as many crude bumps as possible. Both these debilitate the economic vibrancy of the city. Building flyover like the one in Basavanagudi is no solution. The tendency of city engineers is to draw up roads on the board as if roads were meant for vehicles alone. A city has a life of its own and every segment from hawkers to Limousine owners has a stake in it. Bulldozing is no answer and it only defaces the city and deprives millions of a livelihood. For instance, how can you talk of widening Avenue Road without answering the question—what will people who earn their bread do and where will city people go to buy their goods at reasonable prices?
When the argument about metro rail came, it was contended that an underground metro was not ideal and economical for Bangalore. It was wrong. It would have cost a bit more than over ground but now the cost overrun has levelled that off.
The core city is generally supposed to be slow moving and most cities have banned motor vehicles so that people could amble along and shop without the fear of being run over. Only in Indian cities motor vehicles compete with pedestrians and cyclists.
Bangalore used to have an Urban Arts Commission (UAC) that was wound up. We need to revive it and give it legal teeth for the sake of protecting the city's heritage.
To my mind, the BBMP should think of the following aspects to make the roads safer and pleasant.
> Ban vehicles in some core areas where shops and heritage buildings exist.
> Make parking expensive to discourage people taking out four wheelers when they come to core city.
> Make buses and metro rail user-friendly and attractive to prove as alternatives to private cars.
> Make pedestrian paths a compulsory part of road system.
> Leave heritage buildings and monuments untouched.
> Make survey of minimal traffic needs and manage traffic professionally.
> Scientific traffic management is pre-requisite for city traffic.
(The writer is Air Deccan founder, author, and entrepreneur living in Bangalore)

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