Monday, May 10, 2010

More on Traffic!

As I keep blogging about Bengaluru and
my traffic woes (either driving or walking!), the advice I get from the knowledgeable is to 'Adjust maadi!'

As a newly returned NRI, I am accused of being too critical and expecting too much. A few point out that efforts are constantly being made. They say 'Don't just compare with the other places you have seen' and urge me to remember how it was earlier and see for myself how things have changed for the better. True there are many visible signs!

For instance there is the ongoing mega Metro project! While it is creating a havoc at the moment, it is expected to encourage people to leave their scooters and cars at home! Papers rave about PPP (Public Private Partnership), when Private parties and government contribute 50% each to build expressways and highways. Organisations like the Cityconnect have done a lot to alleviate traffic woes! The New Airport road is an example! All very laudable!

There are also individual efforts, like the one Sriram mentioned;
A very commendable effort made by Dr. Joglekar, residing in UK, to educate us about safe and sensible driving practices. Using this as a guide, a Pune NGO is attempting to save Pune from traffic woes!

I also read in papers about the 'Cons' of such macro projects!
But the guru of BRTS says flyovers would only lead to promoting use of private vehicles, increase in congestion and a decline in the quality of life for those who live beside these elevated roads. "More flyovers, elevated roads and over bridges will not solve traffic problems in the long run. Building roads means adding more vehicles, but improving bus systems means moving more people faster," says Penalosa, who is president of Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).

Having lived in a mega city, Bangkok, I am inclined to agree with the guru! But just today the papers wrote about a monorail project and a tunnel instead of a flyover! The cynical view of such projects; some lucky people will make money!

Another deeper message I get is 'Enu madalikke agolla'.This translates into'Nothing can be done!' This is a refrain which is constantly heard in Bengaluru. It is not just about traffic, it is about everything which is not right! Empty Gutka packets, plastic coffee cups and dog shit on the pavements, politicians, lazy or corrupt officials, noisy neighbours or what have you!

I was a bit surprised when this 'same' message came from none other than the popular additional commissioner of police (traffic), Praveen Sood, in his View Point, TOI of 6/4/2010. He called his viewpoint 'One-way? Two-way? Absolutely no way!'

I gleaned some gems from his article:
#City has 4000 km road net work with 40000 junctions!
#Traffic is still moving in spite of the vehicle population doubling from 18 to 36 lakhs in the last nine years.
# Decisions taken based on well researched traffic and volume patterns by BATF and ably supported by transportation experts!
He goes on to analyse the pros and cons of the various measures and says:
'Patience being the most the most scarce virtue among commuters, it leads to indiscipline, road rage, honking and violations. Too many junctions being the hall-mark of our road network, multiple signals in close proximity become inevitable. Lack of consensus on prohibiting right turns aggravate the agony. Two way traffic may lead to gridlock as commuters are tempted to overtake beyond center line and block opposite traffic in the absence of medians'.

I guess he is talking about the main arteries which have traffic lights and traffic cops in place! He also speaks of a situation (when traffic is not monitored?); 'extra width of road may become convenient place for parking. Also finding six lanes of instead of three tempts most road users to throw lane discipline away to wind and resort to zigzag movement jeopardising safety of everyone. (I have experienced this early in the mornings and it is scary!) He also speaks of the need to widen roads and grade separation as a part of the solution. I hope he gets his wish before he retires or is transferred to better posts! (more likely!)

But what really hit me was his beginning: 'Can we allow individual convenience to override logic? Whom does the road belong to? People who live by or the people who pass by the road? No one really seem to have the answer!'

My observation as a resident of Kumara Park is that the road belongs to every one! I speak only about the roads in residential areas! It belongs literally to every one; the pedestrians, cars, scooters, bicycles and so on. As the pavements are either badly made or occupied and as cars are parked on either side of the road, people are forced share the road! How it is done depends on so many factors, caste, education, culture, from which state they are from, the language they speak. Also their age, marital status, the mood they are in, whether they had a fight with someone at home or at the office. Anyway the list is endless. In short, our unique individuality (or selfishness!) shows up!

Luckily the only rule applied to this seeming anarchy is that traffic should not hamper my speed, I should move without stopping, without slowing down or changing gears! Essentially traffic must flow like the river and they ensure this by occupying any available space, left, right or centre, We can probably call it our 'Traffic dharma!' At the moment only the successful netas have this privilege of moving with speed and without interruption! Others try to emulate this, whenever they feel they can get away with it, police or no police!

The attitude is, if you do not have the dexterity and skill, the daring to risk your life (to be honest others' lives) you better stay at home!

This raises many questions; what about the old, the very young, the timid, the disabled? 'Do they not count in this new resurgent India?' How do we change the attitude of these selfish people? Is there a way? Is there any hope that we can do it?

The answer is probably in the realm of our real dharma, I guess intellectuals and custodians of dharma use the word 'dharma sukshma' to explain this aspect.. May be we can talk about this later.


VATSALA said...

Thanks for a good exposition. Implementation from grass roots i.e basic MV Act rules and education about good driving habits are a must. There is a hope. When the density of traffic becomes so high that there is a permanent gridlock some sense may percolate. In the meanwhile we follow the Ikdian definition of driving which use of the accelerator, brake and horn not the gear. The Indian driver is always emulating the final scene of a Bollywood fillum!

prati said...

Bangalore population just 36 lakhs ? Double that figure and it will be more realistic. You may like to check on this Nidhi.
Regarding your woes on traffic, I'm sure you'll get seasoned with time. Vehicle drivers in Bangalore are experts in "squeeze technology" -- they literally squeeze their vehicles through the smallest gaps. You have to learn the technique. Best of luck. Prasan.