Thursday, June 03, 2004

Managing traffic

As one crawls through Bangalore's traffic at least twice everyday, one can't help wonder how cities with a far greater density of traffic like Singapore or New York are able to manage. But then, even a superficial observation reveals many things that are wrong -

(i) The variety of vehicles

The sheer range of vehicles on an Indian road - from trucks and buses to two-wheelers and three-wheelers not to mention the occasional hand-drawn or animal-drawn cart (although their kind had almost disappeared) - are a nightmare. Their varying speeds and sizes are a surefire recipe for chaos.

(ii) Total disregard for the laws

Even the most educated of us have scant regard for traffic laws, be it speed limits, lane discipline, signals, no-horn zones, no-parking zones or any other rules.

(iii) Absolute lack of enforcement

To compound the problem of non-compliance the traffic police seem even less interested in enforcing the law. They are just silent bystanders to the goings-on. Tales of bribe-seeking traffic policemen are dime-a-dozen in most Indian cities.

(iv) Pathetic roads

India's roads, in particular Bangalore's, are a joke. When they are not layered with sand they are out to give the moon a run for its craters. And if you can tell the pavement from the road from the median you must be in some other country. Add to that fragments of rock an stone lying haphazardly and any motor-cross championship would be a cakewalk for us.

(v) Unauthorized parking

Public roads are everyone's private property. Unauthorized parking is the rule rather than the exception. Compounding it is haphazard parking and whatever little bit of motorable road that remained is also gone.

(vi) Pedestrians and cattle

Not their fault really but with no subways or overbridges for pedestrians they have no choice but to risk life and limb and walk across the road obstructing traffic in the process. Zebra crossings are not unknown in India but any motorist giving way to a pedestrian using it is rarer than snow in the Sahara.

Are we still in doubt about why our roads are so congested and traffic jams are the order of the day?

Once the problems are identified the solutions are all too obvious:

Well-paved roads of uniform dimension throughout their length that are free from objects, well delineated pavements and medians, enforcement of lane discipline, freeing up roads from parked vehicles by providing multi-storeyed parking lots and designated parking spaces, fee on parking to discourage lengthy halts, cess on access to areas which have the highest density of traffic and much more simple things that would ease up traffic congestion to a great extent. Or is that rocket science for us?


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