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Smart Cities Put People Before Cars - Lessons for Bangalore

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It is no wonder then that the most vibrant cities in America — New York, Boston, San Francisco and Washington — are ones that have been able to curb the voracious appetite of the car for space. The cities we love around the world are the ones that have been able to devote more space to people and less to cars. ...Still, it was not until the 1970s that cities began to have buyer's remorse. And some actually dared contemplate the radical step of freeway removal. The first American city to undertake this bold act was Portland, Ore, which created a riverfront park on the site of a downtown freeway. In San Francisco, the story was slightly different. True, it was the earthquake that damaged the freeways, but it was the vision of the leaders and its citizens who saw the potential in removing two different freeways and replacing them with urban boulevards that are now such iconic images of urban life that they are showing up in TV commercials. Cities around the country are beginning to learn how they can restore their communities by removing or minimizing highways that serve as dividers and destroyers of property value. The examples of Portland, San Francisco, Milwaukee and Seoul teach us how highway removal can reverse the process of disurbanism — and create great social and economic value in the process. Moreover, these cities have not only avoided creating gridlock — they have, in fact, been able to maintain and enhance access, demonstrating the point that traditional streets and boulevards are far superior to limited-access roads for moving traffic in urban settings. Source:


bangalorean's picture

Not feasible in India

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Talking of US or Europe and other cities and trying to implement those here is really not possible due to the following reasons, 1. Size of the roads, even the smallest of small roads in US would be as big as bannerghatta road in bangalore. You can think how big the main roads would be. Main access roads would be 3/4 lanes in one direction. Is it possible to do that in India that too in bangalore 2. Criss crossing, there is a heavy network of criss crossing on indian roads. there is a junction for every 50 meters in some places. (Bannergahtta road best example) People moving around, like road is their next home. 3. People donot follow crossing only in zebra cross. People are so lazy even to walk 10 m to the nearest signal. They just pounce on the road and run like deers to cross the roads. There have been incidents when people are hit badly while running recklessly on the road. I donot mind stopping for people to cross, if they follow corssing in Zebra cross. In US if people cross in other places other than Zebra cross, there would be cop waiting for you and have good 10 min chat with you not to do it cause it is not safe... Is it possible to do it here......... (Not possible for atleast another 10 years, my bet 10 years of traffic education is needed for india)
shas3n's picture

Narrow roads

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Bangalorean, I agree with you that we need at least a decade of traffic training before we are any better. But I believe narrow roads are not a problem in implementing what cvikash is saying. In fact narrow roads might be the very motivation for cities to do such implementations. Several cities in Europe are very old and town centers have extremely narrow roads. I have extensively seen Cambridge, UK and surprised that they have such a people-friendly town center. For example, in the map below, all the roads which are gray are extremely narrow.
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But instead of trying to get more traffic pass through them, the city council has put people before vehicles and all these roads now allow only bicycles and public vehicles (taxis are allowed). In fact the street called 'Petty Curry' which is on the map is a no-traffic zone and only pedestrians are allowed. You have to see it to believe that this can be so effective in making lives easy for everyone. I think that is what cvikash is referring to in his post. Just imagine how clutter free our chikkapeTe, baLepeTe area would be if we allowed only public transport and pedestrians. Many of the roads on this map are narrower than the roads in chikkapeTe. -Shastri


shas3n's picture

Photos of narrow roads

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While I am at it, here are a couple of photos from those roads. Observe how narrow the road is and how wide the foot path is in ralation to the road width. This is another street. And finally petty curry which allows no traffic. -Shastri


Naveen's picture

'Not Faesible in India' - This mindset needs to change

107 users have liked.

Hi Bangalorean,

Read yr post - & I agree that under the present conditions, changes might seem quite impossible.

However, if we do not attempt & feel that we can never change, then we wl surely remain as we are, & probably get worse !

Cities like Keelung, Kaohsiung (both in Taiwan), Bangkok & Guangzhou (China) were much worse than what bangalore or any Indian city was about 15-20 years ago, but today, they are all far better as people realised & leaders had done their homework & moved their cities away from further degradation.

All it needs is a sort of 'renaissance' or 'revolution', & I see it begining ro happen in our cities - the chaos & congestion are being felt by many right thinking citizens - this thought process will continue & may take some time before a turnaround. The only problem I see is that the quality of the politicians & authorities must also improve to face up & meet the challenges ahead, else it might take longer.

blrsri's picture

metro metro metro

96 users have liked.

give us a train..we will walk as much..till it starts hurting cos then we can again relax tired legs on the train..with a belief that we can reach home peacefully and fast!

All cities mentioned above have very strong public transport network and senior managers are known to take calls with their offshore teams getting to work on local metro!

BRT is nice to have but again constrained by space in places like blr..our roads have medians to host pillars..have a train on it and we will see birds chirping as they do in central park or kids will chase overfed pigeons near the frog pond!

bangalorean's picture

Well Said

100 users have liked.
Well Said and i was about mention the same. All these european cities have a very good metro network, which we are not realizing as we are posting. They also do have a very good public transport. If you remember, people hardly use their private vehicles in europe, such is the state of public transport. No matter if i change my mindset, it will take a while may be 10 or 20 yrs before we could see the system change. Though we can make an effort to make it better, as i do, i stop when i see helpless people trying to cross. But these small gestures have to be turned into mass practice, if we do it currently then we will not be able to use our current roads at all... I am not in for any flake, but thinking practically this is the current situation....
silkboard's picture

You need a few of them

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True, nobody wants or likes freeways or access controlled corridors criss crossing the cities, but you need one or two of them in every city to move people in and out of CBD to the peripheral areas. You gave SFO as an example, but you can take US-101 from north, and I-80/280 from south to get pretty close to the CBD. Once inside the CBD, you have regular mains and crosses, and a few wide thoroughfares or mixed use boulevards like Van Ness.

The equivalent picture for Bangalore will be a North South and an East West corridor. These could start from peripheral areas (Whitefield, Nellamangala, Chandapura types) and get vehicles and buses close to CBD. You need these corridors to supplement the public transport trunk lines. Why? Its not about people that sometimes have need to be moved in and out of the city via private transport, today, you have commercial goods, service goods and vehicles that must unnecessarily mingle with short distance traffic moving on Old Madras Road or Tumkur Road or Bellary Road or equivalents.

And then, you can build nice mixed-use zones around existing radial roads (could convert OMR, Hosur Road, Airport Road)

Bottom line, yes, dont build these 'freeways' to encourage more people to buy cars, but you can't do without these corridors either.

Naveen's picture

You Said It

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Yr observation is pretty accurate. The problem with our cities is that we have been making do with whatever is available, as it were, since desirable changes are next to impossible with so many objections from those effected + sympathizers, who seem to be increasing each passing day - earlier, the Medha Patkars & Menakas were few, but these days the list has been increasing with new names - it seems that it's a full-time profession for them, now.

Whilst enforcement of dedicated lanes for a full BRT system seems a remote possibility anytime soon as also an extensive Metro /Monorail due to very high costs, what do we do ??

The only thing that I can think of is for the authorities to try to improve the image of BMTC by operating in mixed traffic conditions, as it were, & atleast making commutes somewhat faster by escaping signal delays whereever possible - the magic box could really be handy here. Further evolution of the bus system can then be possible since a foothold would have been obtained, but to accomplish even this, we need someone with vision, such as Penalosa !

If no attempts are made, things will worsen & we will sink further into even more difficulties, but I guess that's what the fate of our city is.

mailabode's picture

European roads

92 users have liked.

European roads are narrow. Lots and Lots of Roads in Central London are very narrow - but they manage by deciding on well thought out(workable) system and then implementing the system. The same in mainland Europe. Broad roads alone arent the solution and can never be - like SHAS3N said.

London has a lot of junctions spaced 50 meters apart as well. Mainland Europe has it even less.

Even in Europe people did not follow rules once upon a time. People should learn to obey rules eventually. The solution is education- 'no oo many rules' is not an option.

We cant always compare with the US- because US cities are mostly planned. But, You can compare with Europe because it has/had the same problems like we have. Population- London is also very densely populated and sometimes there isnt even space to walk in Central London.

People will use public transport if its dependable and if it is of high standard.

A concerted effort of educating the people in innovative ways(not just who know English), and even more important making the Netas to change drastically for they dont care or know whats happenning- the Netas live in their own world of spin and corruption. Of course change will take time and happens in steps.

Over all we need just two things:

1) a workable system/design (all factors considered)

2) Proper Implementation

We need to examine factors that impede the functionality of the above two.

Vasanth's picture

New York Manhattan roads too suffer from Chaos

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I used to live close to NewYork City and travel to New York almost every weekend. New York roads are also having the chaotic traffic especially Yellow Taxis which is driven by less educated and less cultured people just like our Indicabs. One thing is that they do not rush the way in which our drivers do since accident may result in huge penalties. I came to know from other friends it is the same in downtown  areas of Metro cities like NewYork, SanFrancisco,Chicago etc. Cities around NewYork like NewJersey is also messy and there was no difference between India and USA except the freeways. Freeways gets clogged near Metros. Freeway from New Jersey to New York almost always gets congested near Lincoln Tunnel and Holland Tunnel, an underground tunnel that goes under Hudson river. Most of the people from New Jersey travelling to New York therefore go to Train Station in New Jersey, park their cars and take a train.

Other parts of USA is nicely organized and very well planned which revolves around Freeways. Important thing to notice is the population is less, people respect and follow rules and regulation, roads are very well planned, lot of freelands are available for construction or expansion of freeways.

Bangalore is just like New York, lot of businesses, lots of uneducated and uncultured drivers and the area spread across is almost 10-15 times that of New York. Seeing the chaos, New York officials are planning for congestion charging just like London and taking the example of London itself. New York has got excellent Metro underground train system called "SUBWAYS", most of the people use that to travel around NewYork. This is not as good as London and our Delhi Metro is 100 times cleaner and neater than NewYork's Subways.


Vasanth's picture

Our CBD is not defined

106 users have liked.

SB, main problem with Bangalore is CBD is not defined. Which is our CBD? Majestic, White Field, MG Road, Electronic City? Companies were started at their whims all over Bangalore.

If we would have a CBD and had connectivity using public transport from all parts of the city with enforcement of congestion charges for vehicles entering CBD, we wouldn't have had the Chaos that we have today. Ofcourse, corridors would have helped to move the goods as well as Buses easily.

Otherway around this is to have the companies near to Metro/Mono stations. IT , SEZ parks and malls near to Metro / Mono stations.  This would reduce the movement of vehicles. Go to office by Metro/Mono, work in the office, go to bank nearby by walk/bicycle rented for any transaction, go to mall, freakout, comeback home by Metro / Mono. Again, shared auto or ideally a bicycle or worst case a 2 wheeler from Metro / Mono station to home. Strictly no car from Metro/Mono stations.Parking  of a car in a Metro/Mono station is just waste of space.

Naveen's picture

New York /Manhattan Roads with Chaos ?

93 users have liked.


I beg to differ on a few points ---

First of all, the area spread of Bangalore is not 10-15 times that of NewYork - if you include all the five boroughs (Manhattan, Staten Is, Queens, Brooklyn & Bronx) - I think New York is a much larger city than Bangalore is - by area as well as population.

Second - traffic flows through the various bridges (Brooklyn /Queensboro, Manhattan, George Washington) & the tunnels you mentioned is excessive, but not chaotic as they follow lane discipline - the only problem are the delays + tolls. Inter-connectivity between boroughs is also very good, & one does not have to go through Manhattan.

It's only within Manhattan that congestion is a major problem as there are numerous signal intersections between streets & avenues (many of them one-ways). Take Queens - it's great with the very broad queens blvd, Van Wyck expressway, etc & subways mostly underground & surfacing well after the close knit areas.

Connectivity to CBDs - Manhattan in NewYork & Exchange Place in NewJersey is excellent with several modes - Path & subways are quite excellent & serve very well.

Travelling from say, Hillsboro, a suburb in Jersey to Times Square in Manhattan (over 60 kms) can be done in about 1.5 hrs via car, train & subway - this sort of thing can never be done in bangalore, presently.

Though journeys along Freeways & Thruways take long whilst going from say, NewYork to Washington DC (via Jersey, Atlantic City, Baltimore), or say from NewYork to Boston (via Stamford, NewHaven) - thro' fairly dense traffic areas, certainly is not chaotic - certainly not the way it is here.

Further, in my opinion, NewYork subway is defnitely superior to London underground as regards connectivity & frequency is concerned, though in terms of cleanliness. Delhi Metro may be far better than both - many asian metro systems (Singapore, HongKong, Seoul, etc) are far cleaner & more comfortable than NewYork or London systems.

Our problems are more related to chaos with no lane discipline & road manners - these are sorely lacking, & is the cause for accidents, frustration & road rage. I think space managemnet on existing roads is non-existent, & not availability of road space.

Vasanth's picture

Mainly Manhattan I was referring to

99 users have liked.

Hi Naveen,

I was referring to Manhattan. As you said, there is lane discipline followed even with delayed traffic which makes it more safer and no tension to drive unless like Bangalore.

navshot's picture

Road manners in India???

106 users have liked.

A perspective from BBC:

-- navshot
idontspam's picture

UK is frendliest to peds & cycles

113 users have liked.

UK is the best example of how to make a city ped & cyclist friendly and environmentally safe. US is a bad example for anything to do with environment.

I saw similar scenes to the above in southampton. In fact I heard they are tearing down some old factories on the south side towards the waterfront to make a park. We are going the other way tearing down parks to make way for buildings.

sirahattimohanrao's picture

roads and jams in Bangalore

105 users have liked.

traffice jams exits every where in the world.  but  u see the influx of the people into the city everyday. godonly knows from where people come and what for. how can any govt or corporation could manage such sudden inflow without any notice. no doubt it is our fundamental right to go anywhere  but infra suffers. if suddennly 10 relatives barge into our homes can v manage. in Bangkok people wait in the jams for hours buth they dont honk or cut the lanes. this is what v lack. thirdly we have fought british for 300 years and the same attitude continues and v fight against ourselves. for everything pettything there r strikes , dharnas, processions demos, attacks, burning of vehicles etc. v treat our own people as enemies and rivals. only when our attitude changes v can solve any problem. at the moment v r experts in creating problems. v should start caring for others first and then only v can b deciplined and systamatic. our govt should be model. YATHA RAJA THATHA PRAJA.






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