Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Let planners think in straight lines

Let planners think in straight lines

Road-widening issue is a sleeping tiger for residents of Cunningham Road. They don't want to wake it. Instead, they want the civic authorities to stop thinking in circles and find simple solutions to reduce chaos on this prominent stretch. For instance, build a flyover or make it a 'no parking' zone, they say

Vaishalli Chandra

There is something wrong with the city roads. But widening is not the solution for that. When asked about the BBMP's proposal, people on Cunningham Road find comfort in this remark: "It's not going to happen here, but on the other side after Chandrika Hotel."
Although the stretch from Queen's Road junction to Chandrika Hotel is up for widening, people working or living in most businesses and residential establishments along the road act as though they are quite unaware of this.
A look at the one-way stretch is enough for a lay person to know that road widening is not going to solve the issue. The clue to it is staring on the face: bikes parked in a single file throughout the stretch.
"If only the BBMP makes this a 'no parking' area, most of the road space that is lost to these vehicles can be used for smooth movement of vehicles," says 66-year-old AM Amin, a resident who owns a business complex.
Commercial establishments on both sides of the stretch may lose property to the road project. But people are silent for now. "Why wake a sleeping tiger," says one old-timer and owner of a big complex, requesting anonymity.
His newly renovated property has been constructed keeping in mind the widening plan. "It is still my property. Why should I lose it," he says.
Why did he leave a few feet space in front before constructing the building? "I don't have any choice," says he.
Construction plans on this stretch are approved by the Palike only after the owners agree to leave a bit of space for widening, says another owner.
This road has it all — art galleries, boutiques, cafes, concept stores as well as business establishments interspaced with residential apartments. Most occupants of this prime location are maintaining a stoic silence and a wait-and-watch attitude on the BBMP's road-widening plan.
But all agree that problems exist although not many want to come up with any solutions. Prod a little, some say: "Make the stretch a 'no parking' zone. That's one way to solve this."
Most find it an easy solution. When asked if the buildings around have sufficient parking facility, many including complex owners, feel so. But they argue it is not their responsibility to provide parking space for all workers. For instance, if a bank is housed in a complex, only a select number of employees enjoy parking facility in the building they work in. The rest have to park their vehicles on Cunningham Road or adjoining lanes.
How will widening this stretch help commuters? "There is still a bottleneck at the beginning and end of this road," says Junaid M, who works in one of the offices on Cunningham Road.
Motorists who come to this road face parking hassles. While there is a group that wants this area to be turned into a 'no parking' zone, those who regularly come to work using their own vehicle, ask: "Where will we park? Some buildings do not provide parking facility for workers. That only forces us to park on the road," says Shailaja Ram, who works as public relations professional in a company.
What primarily concerns residents of adjoining lanes like Cunningham Cross Road is that there may be a spill-over of parking woes in these lanes. It's happening already.
"The shortest distance between two points is a straight line," says George Kuruvila, urban planner and designer based in Mysore. And he has a simple question for authorities bent on widening the road. "Why would you want to force people to divert traffic from this straight road to other periphery roads? It's plain stupid," he says.
People are upset. Many feel that the road needs proper management and not widening. Some feel a flyover can be constructed instead of widening the road. However, the effect flyovers have on property value explains why the idea finds no takers. "It is proved that property rates drop where flyovers come up. We do not want any flyover," says an old-timer.
"Currently, this road is being used by commuters heading for the international airport, RT Nagar, Yeshwantpur, and Vidhan Soudha. So why not make a flyover that is area specific," asks Amin.
This will avert bottlenecks. He explains how the traffic could be diverted to the designated road without meeting at the end of the flyover.
Cunningham Road, according to Kuruvila, "is a classic example of faulty planning and road widening will not solve the traffic issues of the place."
Part of CBD, the road is primarily commercial and property owners are unwillingly to let go of prime property without compensation.
The drainage that passes on both sides is another concern of people. "Are they planning to relocate the drains that run along the road," they keep asking.


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