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Some practical suggestions for Traffic/Pollution

One of the most significant and visible problems that Bangalore currently faces is traffic and the related congestion, noise and air pollution. On our Bangalore roads, we routinely see many accidents, fights, noise from engine and honking, pollution from smoke spewing vehicles, damage to health, complaints and frustration. Although we hear constant criticism, there is very little in terms of practical solutions. The way the traffic currently flows (if we can even call that) is disgraceful and a great showcase of the utter incompetence of our administrators, un-courteousness of our society and the most glaring example of the backwardness of our country in general. Here, we discuss some practical solutions to significantly alleviate the pain.

Below is a comprehensive set of solutions, If implemented properly as a whole solution (not doing just one or two aspects of it), will bring congestion down by 50%, bring down pollution by more than 50%, noise pollution will dramatically reduce and accidents will go down and both pedestrians, drivers and traffic-police will breath better, live longer and have a little more peace so they can be productive in their lives. Simply put, If the average vehicular speed is at least doubled from today’s roughly 20Km/Hr, there would be 50% less vehicles on the roads, significant fuel saving from better engine speed and also from engines not idling on roads (Bangalore roads today are a virtual parking lot, only with engines running) and one can pretty much reach anywhere in Bangalore within half hour which today seems virtually impossible. Proper policing and penalties will increase fine collections which in turn can be used for building better infrastructure, paying police more so they do not have to resort to the cheap blatant harassment of people for their income.

While some of the suggestions can quickly be implemented and will give some marginal relief, long term sustained implementation will surely bring it to a state where driving will not be the daily frustrating activity that it is now. Current plan to simply randomly widening the roads over years will prove to be futile. Broadly, there are about 50% of the problems that the government and authorities have to take care of and other 50% is for commuters to take ownership of. These would need to be rolled out systematically and awareness created via various medias, particularly newspaper publications, movies on how to drive and shows on TV. Private companies which would enormously benefit from the improved traffic and productivity should contribute to improving this mess both monetarily and with volunteers.

Areas that government/authorities need to fix-

1. Defined, well marked lanes either 2 or 3 or more where vehicles can commute at any time, even in rain, devoid of tree tops/branches, water puddles, shopping carts, animals (dead and alive). Some places, especially while approaching turns need to be hard-defined lanes with barricades. Start with arterial roads first and cover the entire city, The lanes have to be continuous with no narrowing/breaks in the middle. It is important to realize that the lane is only as wide as the narrowest point anywhere along it is. It is quite useless to have very wide areas (can convert wider areas into parking areas) and narrow areas along the same road since the narrow areas become bottlenecks and become choke points where vehicles crowd. Today, building-construction folks utilize the roads as their storage area to pile stuff and block traffic! Folks drop construction debris (even garbage trucks and open transport trucks) on the road and completely trash and ruin it and no one cleans it up or even warns those drivers! Animals freely roam even on the main roads and their owners do not care.

2. Defined parking and bus stops that do not interfere with traffic flow ever. Stops have to be clearly marked in designated stop areas and should be far away from intersections and turns. Bus-stops have to be designed so they do not obstruct traffic. This happens even on ring-road and the experts who have designed these stops should be fired from their job for the amazingly utter incompetence and for causing so much loss to the city simply by this one act. Often autos/taxis wait for passengers right in front of the bus stop and the buses consequently have to stop in the middle of the road, obstructing traffic for long times! Some roadside shops and carts block traffic and those need to be forced out of the way. Every traffic light has to be designed so that traffic zooms past as soon as the light turns green. It is common to see just a handful of vehicles passing through light during a light-change because they are not able to accelerate and they block all available lanes!

3. Clearly defined left and right turn lanes. Particularly all major junctions need to be designed for turn lanes and folks in wrong lanes should not be allowed to violate.

4. All roads need to be reasonably free of potholes, free of very sharp turns, free of bumps, free of stagnant water puddles even after a heavy rain. Remove dangerous speed bumps. Keep a team and their only job is to keep the roads up at any time. Establish a complaint number and address on a priority.

5. Fine violators; more serious the offense, the serious the fine- driving in wrong direction, skipping red light, overtaking dangerously, speeding, stopping on road, illegal turns, speaking on cell phones, loud and continuous horns. Later come seat belt or helmet violators who are doing harm to themselves and not as much to others (today only these people are fined because they are the only ones our ill-equipped police are able to catch!). Fines have to be steep. If one is not strict, there will be more violators or people will not follow rules. Red-mark multiple-violator cars so they become prominent and easy to catch/fine. All those who violate should attend mandatory traffic training school (to be run by competent uncorrupt officials) so they properly learn the rules. If they violate multiple times, the severity of the training/penalty has to increase and final their license should be confiscated if they are not able to reform.

6. Vehicles with bad smoke, overloaded etc. should be stopped, fined heavily and taken off the roads (you do not need smoke detectors at this point; some are blatantly violating!), driving with high beams on or no lights should be penalized. These violations not only slow down others and are the cause for accidents but also cause road rage and frustration.

7. Train police on traffic rules first and what to look for in violators. Today, each one seems to do however they please or how best they know. There can even be community volunteers who can form teams to help traffic police and to catch violators. Blatant violators, drunken drivers should be fined heavily and arrogant children of rich and powerful people jailed (if parents try to influence, they should either be jailed instead or made to work in a poor neighborhood and take custody of families affected by drunken driving accidents), for fines does not matter to them. Essentially any traffic obstruction caused because of irresponsible behavior of someone affecting the flow should be punished.

8. Before commencing any road work, good alternate road has to be prepared, start-end date clearly marked so commuters are not put through misery during that period. As far as possible, road work (including cleaning) should be carried out during off-peak hours or in the night so the work does not obstruct traffic but also does not cause danger to the personnel and workers.

9. Mark clear Pedestrians crossings and no vehicle should ever be allowed to stop on it (can stop either before or after). Even when traffic is not moving now, it is difficult for pedestrians to weave in and out of non-moving vehicles on the road. Make available, footpaths everywhere possible. Speed increase can only happen when pedestrians have clear way to cross/walk. If not, more accidents will happen and current inability to go fast is a blessing in disguise and we do not deserve anything better.

10. Everyone should move to side and provide way for ambulance, fire engine and police. On the contrary, never let government official vehicles (they have more time to waste than anyone) use their flashing- light to pass. They are contributing least to our society and should be the last ones to get any priority and will hopefully understand the pains of a common man.

Citizen rules to follow
1. Stay in lanes and use indicators while changing, and be courteous to others. Slower vehicle should always be only on the left lane (and never in the right most lane) and trucks never in the right lane particularly on ring-road. This will allow fast vehicles to overtake from right or will avoid having to weave in and out of lanes just to pass someone. It is very common to see particularly on the ring-road, at any time of the day or night, two slow moving trucks/overloaded autos etc. trying to overtake one another causing others to simply continually honk and follow them forever with frustration. Overloaded sand trucks, oversized trucks, overloaded transport autos and even scooters and bicycles many a times travel in/on the right lane even when slower lanes are empty.

2. Give way to pedestrians and zebra crossings should never be stopped-on or violated. Pedestrians in general, particularly older folks, children, handicapped persons should be shown far more courtesy. This currently speaks so poorly of our society.

3. Never stop in a driving lane- when passengers need to get off or even if vehicle breaks down, push it out of the way (with help from others around you if necessary) or to a side/access road. Autos, buses and commercial vehicles stop wherever they like. People stop on roads anywhere they wish to eat, to urinate, to chat, for phone calls etc. and this should be stopped.

4. While making turns, be in the correct lane, left for left and right for right and use indicators ahead of time.

5. Never use high beam in the city. Use only in high ways and only when there are no vehicles in front of you.

6. Don’t throw stuff out of the window or spit etc. It is a shame that people even need to be told this! If you see someone doing it, tell them not to. Use Gandhigiri to teach!

7. Respect Pedestrians, police (they are virtually giving their life for you on the roads) and other commuters. If your life is miserable, that is no reason to make everyone else’s life miserable too. If fined, pay politely.

8. Never drive rash, crowd near a intersection or light (vehicles should always be one behind the other). One person trying to save 5 minutes for himself will cause half hour delay for everyone including him. Sooner you realize this, the better for everyone. A red light does not mean everyone has to stop exactly at the light, you stop behind the stopped vehicle in front of you. This is particularly bad at a railway crossing where invariably when the gate is closed and then opened, it takes a long time to clear the congestion since people crowd from both sides so no one can pass!

A culmination of all the above mentioned issues coming together can be seen at places Krishnarajapura, Marathalli junction, RT Nagar Junction, BTM layout etc. which could be prime showcase for the utter incompetence of road traffic engineers and the un-courteous gone-deaf Bangalore commuters. It is simply pathetic that we are so incompetent at solving such a simple issue at one junction!

Long term fixes are more involved, need some money for implementation and require some time to fix. However, this needs to be done in the larger interest of our society.

1. Strict written and driving tests before issuing license. Or poor driving will cause accidents and deaths. Corrupt RTOs who are issuing license without proper tests should be jailed since the deaths caused should be treated as a criminal offense. Utilize technology to teach and evaluate so the program becomes effective. Have proper training and education classes.

2. Strict emission norms. Blatant smoky vehicles should be rid off right away. There should be a test to measure pollution at running speeds under typical loads. The tests can realistically be done only once a year and violators should be fined heavily. Broken incompetent vehicles should not be allowed on the road and all vehicles should meet certain minimum standards or that one slow vehicle will force all vehicles to follow and go slow causing problems.

3. Plan now and construct right under-passes, signals, pedestrian crossings and additional lanes. If done right, Bangalore roads can handle a lot more vehicles. It is poor utilization today that is causing the grief.

4. Consider making bicycle paths everywhere. Bangalore is very conducive to this both in terms of the terrain and weather and is a healthy option that many would opt for if provided an opportunity.

5. Plan other Mass transport and even the existing public transport more scientifically. Today, only attempt seems to be to take the politicians to places like USA and Singapore to see how their transport works. Of course they have their fun there, admire how advanced those people and country are, and then come back (because they have to) and exhibit neither the desire nor the will to improve situation here. Their belief is that Bangaloreans are born to live/die in misery and they anyway are the pig who enjoy living in it. They make sure things never improve for that is how they stay in power. Authorities do not seem to realize that fixing these real problems is how they can become valuable to the country, earn respect of the people and possibly even get reelected.

[This was a letter from Kumar S, Bangalore]

srikanthml's picture

BBMP is pathetic in ENFORCEMENT!!

This is an excellent plan and very neatly detailed. However, the biggest loophole is ENFORCEMENT. If we cant address the issue of how to persuade the BBMP/Traffic Police to be strictly enforcing the rules we will not have a desired outcome. If you start analyzing why enforcement is failing, it points to strained resource etc. Why then no adequate resource, it points to failure by elected representatives to allocate budget. Why then no budget, it boils down to corruption and diversion of funds. So does it mean we need to elect a better representative? The buck stops at the elected politicians, unless we get rid of corrupt and inept politicians and replace with Statesmen(not the goons we have today in politics), our problems will continue. Would like to know if any thought is put by "praja" community in this regard
psaram42's picture

Where there a will there is a way

I do agree with srikanthml that the plan is excellent and neatly detailed. As the author has pointed out, the responsibility is shared equally between service provider and the user that is government and the governed ie the “Praja”. 

I assume Praja and similar organizations will not be  passing the buck back to the government, but have certain role to play like:

  • Keep tabs by the use of RTI on various govenament spending
  •  Keep in touch with various agencies like BBMP, Traffic Police etc
  •  Highlighting specific problems like the one at Tin Factory area in KR puram and suggesting solutions
  •  Taking part in building good Electorate
  • etc
Praja will be as we in praja would like it to be I think :)

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