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Road Lanes - Will it work in India?

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 In a good piece called Why is lane discipline so indisciplined here? Praveen Sood Addl CP, Traffic, Bangalore raises the important question of how do we design lanes for Indian mixed traffic conditions. He says "(In India)Both Benz and Bajaj compete with each other for space, priority and attention. Having travelled all over the world, most of us wonder why we can’t have lane discipline as in the West. Will our drivers ever follow it?" Should lanes be drawn for turning direction or should they be designed for segregating by speed of vehicle. 

He concludes by saying "there cannot be two opinions about the need to stand in respective lanes as per turning movements on the junctions"

What do you think?


idontspam's picture

Lanes, cabbages & kings

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Of course I have had an opinion on this for long so let me go first.

The conclusion he draws that lanes are for direction setting is the right conclusion IMO. Lanes segregate traffic on direction and makes it smooth for the people going in that direction. There arent any other primary objective for having a lane. Segregation of traffic for speed and type is only a secondary side benefit of using lanes on roads. And like correctly mentioned will only work on large stretches like highways. City streets should not bother trying to use lanes to segregate vehicle by speed.

So why are we frustrated with the chaos on the street? It has more to do with the lack of the first E of the 3 E's - Engineering. When BBMP/Anybody builds roads it has to ensure the lane width remains a constant 3.5 meters regardless if a cycle is going on it or an oil tanker. Having uneven lanes, snaking borders, irregular geometry makes the whole effort meaningless. Roads have to be designed to ensure it takes not only a respectable speed on that road but allows traffic to join other surrounding seamlessly. Each road needs to have speed on it clearly identified. Both lower & upper limits.

Today even if an auto is ripping its guts at 45kmph on a 45kmph road, along comes a BMW who believes his speed is limited by his speedometer or by the idiot yellow board taxi ripping even faster in front and not by and specification on the road (which is non existant today BTW). So speed has to be written on the road first via signboards & paint. The lower limit should be 10kmph below the upper limit marked. Then we can go about weeding the slow vehicles even if it was a BMW on a slow mode. 

Secondly is Education. Regardless of what the type and speed of the vehicle they should be taught to stick to their lane and if they missed it should continue on without selfishly interrupting the flow of others go ahead and take a U turn at the next junction. They should be taught not to jump the queue or join in at the last minute because this selfishness is the bane of our society today. It is the root cause of destruction of common good, corruption and civil strife. We have to understand some of the worst offenders are cars in Bangalore today and if they can get their manners right others will fall in line.

Now comes the aspect of frustration due to speed of slow vehicles. Most motorized vehicles including motorbikes above 150CC can match expressway speeds. Let me just say once again the days of the autos and low speed vehicles are over in Bangalore, wegot rid of cyclerikshaw or tonga as time moved on. Autos served their purpose well in their day and age and they need to go, so should unsafe low speed vehicle less than 150CC. If an auto can keep up the speed and pimp their vehicles they should be allowed to run. How do you get rid of the slow ones? Not by passing a decree but by designing roads for speed limit which is reasonable and not for a prehistoric era.

Until the engineering is laid down & implemented we are going to have chaos on the streets regardless of if it was a mass transit bus or a private transport car. Organized traffic is a reflection of the ability of people to work together and a commentary on how our personalities are shaping us as a community. We underestimate this facet of our life.

rs's picture

I think the solution to

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I think the solution to traffic moving smoothly is the building of proper footpaths. If footpaths are well build and the kerbs are regular then people can actually use the left most lane.




idontspam's picture

Keep focus

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 I think the solution to traffic moving smoothly is the building of proper footpaths

No its not. Lets not bring trees, pedestrians, animals, rich-poor, kannada etc into lane management.

Pedestrians are for more than freeing up one lane. They have to be a part of urban planning.

rs's picture

One cannot separate them.

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Well, its all linked up - you cannot separate pedestrian facilities from roads. I was in Gavipuram or some such place, near Kengeri, yesterday, where they are developing a new layout. They have built this big wide road, evenly spaced, double etc. off the `Outer Ring Road' connecting Magadi road and Kengeri. But they have made absolutely no provision for a footpath. In fact, already buildings are coming up around 1m from the end of the road. So in a couple of years I am sure it will be a crowded, cramped road with no smooth flow of traffic - regardless of how well the roads are marked or even if the lanes are even.

Shops and houses will come up on the sides and as a consequence cars will stop there. People will walk all around the cars and the current 2 lanes will become 1/2 a line for vehicles to stop on. Add to this the occasional broken down truck or the TATA ACE driver who seems to think that the ace means  he is Michael Schumacher traffic will not move as smoothly as it could. It seems to me that even after all these years of discussing the problems both here and in the BDA/BBMP and Traffic police no planning is done and the same mistakes are repeated.




idontspam's picture

Ped not belong on roads

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you cannot separate pedestrian facilities from roads

Firstly Pedestrians dont belong on roads. Currently they affect our road usage due to bad planning. Road lanes are for motorized vehicles, Pedestrians are not an entity which will use lanes on roads. This understanding is essential before we jump to the pedestrianization topic

Now, pedestrain pathways need not follow roads. Today because of a lack of a contigous walking pathway they use the next available alternative, the roadway designed for motor vehicles. Have you seen sidewalks on freeways? Why not? Sidewalks are just one form of a pedestrian pathway, the most effective way to providing pedestrian access in cities. Sidewalks (walkway on the side of the road) in cities are adjoining roads because there are destinations that need to be reached on foot abutting the roadway or because pedestrians are getting off from motor vehicles from the roadway. Pedestrian pathways need to be treated as a planning item. Design wise they may split away from roads and join back but they need to be contigous. Just like how roads join each other at crossings, pedestrian pathways need to be continous with zebra crossing and crosswalks taking people across roads, and other obstacles. A zebra crossing is a type of pedestrian pathway and hence belongs to a pedestrian.

In the new layout case you have mentioned they have failed to provide a pathway for people in the area, it may or may not run along the roadway but it will be the most cost effective if they did that without cutting people off from destinations abutting the roadway. If the destinations didnt open up to the roadway the pedestrian pathway need to follow another route having nothing to do with the roadway. What will happen is because pedestrians dont have place to walk they either switch to motor vehicles and use the road or they will end up using the road to walk which was not what it was built for. It is a planning issue not a road issue.

We may have to ask for a pedestrian authority or atleast unit within each roadway building authority which will design pedestrian access wherever there is a motor vehicle access to destinations.

Lets take this pedestrian discussion to another thread and leave this to lane managemnt for motor vehicles.

rs's picture

`Pedestrians dont belong on

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`Pedestrians dont belong on roads'

I cannot agree with you more - but the reality is quite different. Your suggestion of having a pedestrian authority is a good one, but as things are it seems to be impossible to co-ordinate the existing authorities so I dont think adding one more will help things.

To me it seems like the aproach to road building should me more holistic - and the task of building pedestrian facilities/ cycling facilities  along a road should be given to the people assigned to build the road. Otherwise there is no way in which the two will be co-ordinated.

One of the few places  in Banagalore where I think things are well defined is in the BEL area - simply because the development of the whole area was done by one authority - namely BEL. Another is the area belonging to HMT.

In fact, it is universally true that within the `gated' communities run by the large PSUs in Bangalore, the roads and pedestrian facilities are designed much better. That is because there is one authority controlling the local area - who is responsible for planning the layout, building road and pedestrian facilities etc. Having different authorities for each aspect of the development of a neigborhood has lead to this rather chaotic situation.

Making people obey road lanes is only one aspect of a much larger problem which cannot be solved without the other issues being addressed.

Coming back to the other point your brought up about footpaths along freeways. Along the outer Ring Road, for example, they have not built any sort of footpath. However, there are a lot of people walking and crossing it. This is one of the fundamental mistakes they make in building all these roads - they make no provision for people to walk even though, in India, there are always people walking. All these flyovers, for example, are used as much by pedestrians as by cars - but in none of them is there any provision made for people to walk which results in people on roads taking up road space, slowing traffic, adding to chaos etc.




pathykv's picture

Pedestrian Facilities

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"Firstly Pedestrians dont belong on roads."

I agree. They belong on the specially provided Pavements/Side walks/ Foot paths.

But even though 60-70 % of road users are pedestrians/ public transport commuters, all the planning and execution of road works are focussed on the remaining 30% of the users of other vechicles, private two/three/four and more wheelers, completely ignoring the needs of the pedestrians esp. in the City roads/streets.

The Planners/ Traffic Engineers should reorient their mindset and plan the road facilities to cater to the needs of the major percentage of road users, i.e. Pedestrians.

The norms for Highways, Expressways etc. should not be blindly applied to roads in residential areas inside the city.


idontspam's picture

Big pot of muck

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Along the outer Ring Road, for example, they have not built any sort of footpath.

This is a ribbon development issue, THe more destinations you create opening up directly to the carriage way the more facilities for pedestrians & public transport you need to provide on the carriage way. Again a planning issue. I call it the Lassiez Faire development model, build a road and dont bother what goes on around it because its somebody's headache.

plan the road facilities to cater to the needs of the major percentage of road users, i.e. Pedestrians

NO, Pedestrians are NOT road users, Motor vehicles are. Pedestrians are sidewalk users. Lets get this right

Let keep this thread to lanes for motor vehicles only.

pathykv's picture

Road users

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"NO, Pedestrians are NOT road users, Motor vehicles are. Pedestrians are sidewalk users. Lets get this right

Let keep this thread to lanes for motor vehicles only."

Are you talking of unmanned Motor vehicles?

Any rider/commuter of Public/private vehicles have perforce to get down and use the pavement/foot path by walk to reach their destination.

And they have to be provided for in any holistic Road/Traffic Plan.


Transmogrifier's picture

Apples, oranges and inappropriate design

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@ pathykv and rs... IMO, ids has a point. Let's not confuse improper zoning (ribbon usage etc.) and pedestrian facilities. Although they would (possibly) be encompassed under the umbrella of traffic engineering, ids (if I've got his drift) is solely talking about lane design. Well-designed lanes, in my mind, are analogous to a canal where your ultimate aim is to to smooth flow.

"  (The traffic engineer provides)... roadway conditions that contribute to smooth and efficient traffic flow. Experience has shown that safety goes hand-in-hand with smooth traffic operation. Disrupting the smooth flow of traffic increases the probability of accidents." - Quoted from the link above

Now, no one would dispute the fact that pedestrian infrastructure is a vital part 'in any holistic road/traffic plan'. But traffic lanes are NOT pedestrian zones. They might become so because we haven't provided pavements, but (again) pedestrians are NOT traffic. And as for all drivers/passengers of (those non-unmanned) motor vehicles, they cease to be motor vehicle users once they are no longer in (or on) the motor vehicle and now are classified as pedestrians.

Back to ids' core issue, a little bit of data mining and a pic (worth those 1000 words) reveals something really strange in IRC.

(Source: DNA E-paper (dated 30-07-2010), page 4)

See 3 vehicles occupying the 2 lanes? Without getting derailed about the whole debate about autos, Nanos, rich 4-wheeler owners and all that..., let's look at a few numbers:

In the US, in the state of Florida, the maximum width of a motor vehicle should not exceed 102 inches or 2.59m (see 'Width Limitation' section in this source). Although that's 15cm larger, it does compare to the maximum permissible vehicular width of 2.44m as set by IRC. Logic would then point us to conclude that IRC should specify narrower lanes for Indian conditions. Right?


Specifications for urban-multi lane roads in Florida call for a width of 10 feet (or 3.3m; see Table 25.4.3 in this link) while desirable 'carriageway width'  as specified by IRC is 3.5m for each lane in India (source). Simple algebra, instead tells us that desired carriageway width for a multi-lane road for Indian vehicles should be closer to 3.1m. 

In the picture above, by marking narrower lanes, you could have got a much wider pavement or provided for 3 lanes and not have that Swaraj Mazda forging it instead.



idontspam's picture

Good example TM. 3.3mtrs is

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Good example TM. 3.3mtrs is sufficient as a lane. I get the feeling because most people drive like crabs, BETL lane width made them claustrophobic. I find it makes you drive in a straight line and does not allow for weaving.

I was in the meanwhile testing out the speeds on surface streets along my most travelled route I believe the following would be appropriate classification of max speed limits.

Access controlled highways and interstates outside dwelling limits - 100kmph

Highways with signals like airport/bellary road and within town & city limits - 80kmph

Corridor roads like sankey road from high grounds till hebbal flyover (this road needs to slow to 20kmph at narrow places like cauvery underpass) and Signal free stretches on roads like ring road (after signal free is done) - 60kmph 

Arterial city streets like cubbon road and sub arterial main roads which have a sidewalk for pedestrians and more than 2 lane carriage way - 40 kmph 

All other unmarked local & collector streets and any other main/sub arterial/arterial roads without pedestrian amenities or 2 lane carriage ways - 30kmph

100 meters on either side of hospital/school zone regardless of size of the road - 20kmph

Now, to put up sign boards & get people used to looking at the speedometer on their dashboard, yes we have one. It comes free with the car, it is in front at eye level, see it?

rs's picture

What I have noticed is that

140 users have liked.

What I have noticed is that if the road width is restricted to one lane - as it is sometimes where Metro work is going on, traffic moves much more smoothly as one does not have vehicles trying to overtake and every possible opportunity.

Perhaps a solution is to make small physical barriers between each lane to enforce people not to keep trying to pass. The problem with having those, though is that often there are broken down vehicles which can choke the entire road. Or the occasional auto guy who decides to stop there to wait for a passenger, completely inconsiderate of any other vehicles or people.



idontspam's picture

Speed classification by road category

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Class Speed (kmph) Category
1 100 Access controlled highways
2 100 Highways outside city/town limits
3 80 Highways with signals
4 80 Highways passing through and within town/city limits
5 60 Corridor roads, 4 lanes or more
6 40 Arterial city streets & Main roads, 4 lanes or more
7 30 All other unmarked local & collector streets, less than 4 lanes
8 30 All roads regardless of size without pedestrian sidewalk of uninterrupted 6 feet on atleast one side 
9 20 100 meters on either side of hospital/school zone regardless of size of the road

idontspam's picture

Two points

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So somebody was asking me offline about 2 things points raised in this blog.

1. If you say segregation of traffic by type is not desirable on roads, does this mean i will have to put up with lorries & buses travelling at 20kmph can block all lanes on the roads?

My response-> Why only lorries, NO vehicle should be allowed to travel below a particular lower speed limit. They need to be hauled off the roads. The suggested speed limits in the city streets typically allow for most types of vehicles except really underpowered ones from going on them. Having said that, PT's like buses usually stop on the side of the road and they need frequently stop, so to increase their efficiency and prevent weaving in & out they need to stick to the outermost lane. This is not the same as forced segregation. It is more for effieciency of the overall movement.

The broad idea should be to move traffic in all lanes of the road within the lower & upper speed limit band. Since we currently allow slow moving vehicles below the specified lower speed limit to ply on the roads they screw up the entire efficiency dynamics. Remember there are local/collector streets where speed limits are amenable to slow vehicles. With inteligent engineering the corridors and arterials can be kept free of slow vehicles but yet allow them to ply within appropriate areas.

This applies to lorries too. Right now there is no enforcement so they get away with it. There is a larger issue with lorries being grossly underpowered & overloaded and not having any tail lights, blinkers or sidelights. They are deathtraps on the road. Unless someone comes out with standards for lorries and enforces them it is going to be lassiez faire in the name of democracy. This is why I was interested in this Road Safety organization that seems to be in the news. Maybe push some standards to the transporters. They are running in the 1960's still. Unfortunately RSA seems to be state to state and they will screw up the standards.

2. the Addl CP asks how can we enforce bikes to go one behind the other.

My response-> While there does exist guidelines in other countries on how bikes need to travel staggered in a lane, for our country simplistically put - 'as long as they stay in their lane and are travelling within the min/max speed limit band, trying to manage how they line up one behind the other or sideways is not a worthwhile effort. They will tend to bunch up and its okay.'

srinidhi's picture

variety of vehicles..?

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One possible issue with having standards on speeds on roads is that we have many types of vehicles on our roads  starting from a TATA ACE to Audi''s to tongas..volvos to marcopolos

And the roads in blr not being same level everywhere because of the natural terrain will put that extra load on these low powered carriers..which slows them drastically..I sometimes get scared that the greeves garuda in front of my car, with the 'visible' struggling engine, will cease and roll back on my car!

idontspam's picture

Issue is problem statement

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we have many types of vehicles on our roads

That is the original problem statement we started with in the blog. Rest of the comments are the solutions for the same.

Transmogrifier's picture

"No person shall drive ...below the minimum speed"

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Couldn't find the Karnataka Motor Vehicles Act (1989) which I believe would take precedence, but here's a quote from the Central Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. 



(1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle or cause or allow a motor vehicle to be driven in any public place at a speed exceeding the maximum speed or below the minimum speed fixed for the vehicle under this Act...


(click here for the official version or here for a way more readable, albeit 'unofficial' version).


Implicit in that though, is that legally, a minimum speed needs to be determined, signed and enforced on roads designated with higher speeds (Class 1-4 and possibly 5 too from ids' speed based road category table).






amitc's picture

Segregation of Traffic

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There has been considerable logic and discussion against segregating of traffic. Let me however argue for it.

I beleive that Indian roads need to be designed differently given our unique needs as opposed to copying from the western world where there is more uniformity on the road.

Here are some sugesstions:

- Roads should have at the minimum a segregation of public and private vehicles: a dedicated lane for buses, autos and taxis and the other for private vehicles. 

This is akin to the model in Europe. Dedicated lanes for public buses ensures reliability of buses and hence higher usage. Ahmedabad has successfully implemented this. I think there has been suggestions already on this forum on this.

This lane should be barricaded and strict chalans for any vehicle caught outside this lane should be enforced.

- Create a smaller width lane for 2 wheelers. This will remove the two wheelers weaving through the traffic and causing confusion.

idontspam's picture

What is this confusion?

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This will remove the two wheelers weaving through the traffic and causing confusion

What is this confusion 2 wheelers are causing? Is it the weaving or the giddiness you get after they weave? Arent the cars & taxis which weave causing you confusion?

Transmogrifier's picture

The wrong way forward?

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Create a smaller width lane for 2 wheelers.

@ amitc, that throws up a whole lot of other questions. Here are a few:

  1. What would be the plan then for at a typical 4 way-junction (e.g. Brigade Rd-MG Rd)? Would there be one 2-wheeler lane for each directional lane (which if you were coming from Kamaraj Rd (or Trinity Circle or even Anil Kumble junction) be 3 regular lanes and then 3 two-wheeler lanes? What about more complex junctions (e.g. South End circle)?
  2. If that is not the case, will they merge with other traffic before the intersection? What then, would the minimum road length be to permit safe merges between modes of transport. Finally, and most importantly, how many roads in town meet this criterion?

We are not the first city to have struggled to figure out how to manage 2-wheelers. Chennai has had mode-based segregated lanes for a while now on Anna Salai.

(source: The Hindu)

However, (IMO) the very fact that I have not seen it implemented on any other road in Chennai, testifies to its very limited applicability.

I think it's time we stopped making excuses for 2-wheelers and simply require ALL of them to obey the same set of rules as other motor-vehicle users (as every other country in the world does). The only two-wheelers that deserve exemptions are bicycles (see here).

FYI, I asked a friend of mine how they got traffic to stick to their lanes in Chennai. Apparently, they flooded the stretch with cops, went all out on fines... and lo and behold- entropy dissolved into order (shock and awe if you will!)



amitc's picture

Designated Lanes

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To totally dismiss designated lanes for city traffic would be pre-mature.

There seems to be fair consensus that designated lanes can make traffic flow better and encourage use of public transportation (buses). The discussion seems to be more around implementation challenges.

- Designated lanes, where they have worked (in most European cities: Paris, Frankfurt, London) has been done so by creating a network that supports it. It has required that bus lanes may have separate sets of traffic signals to allow priority at intersections. Other ways to enhance this has been to specific times when the designated lane is functional.

- While all roads in Bangalore may not be suitable for or have the capacity for a designated bus / taxi lane, we should consider implementing it on roads more prone to traffic.

- Ahmedabad has already implemented bus carriageways (BRTC) and has been a big success with the population adopting bus trips going up significantly.

 Potentially, Bangalore is already ahead on the traffic curve than Ahmedabad and hence more difficult to implement these carriage ways everywhere but does not mean it cannot be done on select / key roads.


amitc's picture

Addendum_Designated Lanes

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Fundamentally, the question comes down to what we want these designated lanes for.

Worldwide, they have been opted for in one of two ways:

- Busway system: Creation of a 'busway system' aka a metro / tram system: In mot such cases, the bus lanes have also enabled developing a tram system, reducing pollution and improving traffic. The limitations however are that it is difficult to do this in already well developed cities with little room to expand roads aka namma Bengaluru.  But this can be successfully adopted in the townships that are coming up now in the outskirts even as they are being built, almost frmo scratch.

- Removing congestion: In this case, lanes are created for short stretches with separate and assigned traffic signals with the main objective of alleviating traffic congestion. This could be more adaptable for the Indian city roads.

Transmogrifier's picture

Fundamentally, the question

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Fundamentally, the question comes down to what we want these designated lanes for.

Exactly... I am completely with you on designating lanes for buses (priority/dedicated whatever) and maybe even for a HOV/car pool type scenario. Hopefully, one day driver behavior on our roads will reach a standard that permit bus-priority type lanes that asj had chronicled and advocated many moons back here and here. Dedicated lanes for 2-wheelers, OTOH, is what I believe is an unsustainable way forward.

Removing congestion: In this case, lanes are created for short stretches with separate and assigned traffic signals with the main objective of alleviating traffic congestion.

Out of pure curiousity, do you have examples of this?



rackstar's picture


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Bumpy reflectors should be placed along with white lane marking, like done in hosur road expressway. Whenever somebody doesnt follow lane will hear "dhad dhad" and will come back to lane. It will trouoble autos more because they have 3 wheels more likely to hit a reflector.

idontspam's picture

Cats eyes

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Bumpy reflectors should be placed along with white lane marking

If I remember traffic police is all for it and purchased the cats eyes to put on some roads but the poor quality of the roads render them useless within a short time, further, there is no SLA with BBMP to force them to replace after relaying/repairing the road. Ideally all street furniture like cats eyes, lane markings etc has to be done and maintained by the authority which lays the roads ie BBMP(BDA for some roads).

One still remembers the do-not-block-intersection yellow boxes that was drawn at many junctions they are all but gone now before people could figure out what they were there for.

rackstar's picture

white lane markings

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I searched, cat's eye is used only for blinking reflectors. Otherwise it is called Botts' dots. Who has to bell the cat is a separate issue. But these dots will be useful against autos, who never follow lane. But these should not be used near junctions. Mind you white lane marking exists all major roads in Bangalore.

rackstar's picture


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I missed to tell. Bott's dots or bumply reflectors are actually enforce lane discipline. Othewise nobody cares lane markings, jump lanes at will.


This maynot make for too much discipline. But it will reduce frequent lane jump. People will think twice before changing lane, and avoid if possible. comment guidelines

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