Thursday, September 30, 2004

Of bad roads, traffic gridlock and kamikaze drivers

Of bad roads, traffic gridlock and kamikaze drivers

Vijay Times

The road infrastructure in Bangalore is so woefully inadequate that chaos and mayhem are some of the words that are often used to describe traffic in the City. But what is the cause for such chaos and what are the solutions?

Ask any auto dealer and he will say that Bangalore is one of the fastest growing markets for automobiles. To see how fast the market is growing chew on these facts. The RTO says that on an average 500 new two-wheelers, 100 cars and 20 assorted vehicles are registered in Bangalore daily. Add another 25 other state vehicles that convert their papers everyday and whopping 625 vehicles are officially added daily to the city’s roads. But officials say that the figure is much higher as many vehicle owners don’t register their vehicles in Bangalore.

Bangalore is now infamous for its roads. “There are 4.850 kms of roads in Bangalore. The average road is 2-3 lanes wide with each lane being 3.5 mts in width,” says Prof MN Sreehari, Traffic Advisor to the Karnataka Government.
“The ideal volume by capacity for a road is 0.6 to 0.8, but city roads average 2 and above. This renders the road un-motorable. Add to this the pathetic state of the roads and you get a heady cocktail,” he says.

Lack of discipline
Drivers in the city often gloat about being able drive anywhere in the world if they have driven in Bangalore. “Motorists in the City lack lane discipline. They feel free to weave across any part of the road they want. Lane disciple is absolutely essential for smooth flow of traffic,” says G Govardhan of the Bangalore Environment Trust.
“When you look at vehicle movement in the city from an elevation, they look as if they are crawling like snakes,” concurs Sreehari.

Traffic management
“The volume of traffic is growing too fast for short term plans like flyovers and one ways to be effective. They merely shift the bottleneck from one place to another. What is sorely needed now is to move growth away from Bangalore, as the infrastructure here is already stretched,” says Sreehari. “We have tried everything from flyovers to one-ways and even experimented with synchronized traffic signals, but the traffic volume is just too much,” he adds.

“People must discipline themselves, as there is only so much that we can do. We are stepping up enforcement and cracking down especially hard on government vehicles and BMTC buses,” says Lakshman Singh, ACP Traffic Central. But traffic expert Sreehari disagrees. “Nowadays anybody can pay the fine. But offenders must be fined and then detained for some time,” he says.

So, what is the way out? “We need a long term plan – a vision. This will require political will, as some hard decisions will have to be taken. Traffic is a problem which every citizen faces and any solution must involve the people,” says Govardhan.


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