Road widening – need for a relook

Bangalore Environment Trust has come out with a position paper on the widening of 91 roads in general and six core inner city roads in particular. Bangalore Environment Trust (BET), founded in 1987, works on environment issues concerning the city.

Our point is that there is a case for a relook at this 91 roads programme based on various traffic measures being taken by the government like Metro, Monorail, underpasses etc. In any case, we feel that six heritage roads with a large number of old trees must not be widened, but instead various other measures to expedite traffic must be adopted. Our position is explained here.

Background

    • The Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) 2015 for Bangalore was based on studies done between 2003 onwards and was finalised in 2007. Traffic projections for the city roads were made before the plans such as metro and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) were finalised. In the light of an expanded BMTC fleet, metro inauguration in 2012 and BRT / monorail plans, traffic growth on these roads, even in peak hours may not be as high as anticipated.

 

    • From Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure Development (ABIDe) Plan Bengaluru 2020 document, it is clear that 27% of the city’s major roads are used for vehicle parking space. This figure is only 16% for Delhi and 17% for Mumbai. The city traffic police department also has confirmed that parking on the roads is the single biggest impediment to traffic flow in the city. The government has also greatly delayed setting up public multi storey parking facilities. This has been a major cause of congestion on our roads. Merely widening our major roads will only result in the extra lane being used by motorists for free parking.
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    • ABIDe has also suggested that traffic studies should be an on-going process to be revisited at intervals. The program of widening 91 city roads therefore needs to be looked at in a flexible way, based on fresh studies of traffic projections, taking expansion of bus users and the coming metro into account. It is interesting to note that the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) study has shown that over 60000 cars have been reduced on the roads of Delhi due to the metro.

 

    • Bangalore streets have always been covered with a cool green canopy because of the cover provided by huge trees such as the copper pod, rain tree, spathodea, delonix, jacaranda, fig and so on. This has reduced air temperatures, filtered dust and pollution and provided shelter to many small birds and animals.

 

    • Among world famous, cities Bangalore is unique in having a diversity of very large avenue trees, which cannot be found even in capitals such as Paris, London or Rome. Our city planners knew that a tropical climate needs some unique solutions for pedestrians and vehicle users.

 

  • The large scale road widening program underway on 91 city  roads will undermine the above unique features of Bangalore and reduce it to just an ordinary sweltering hot city with no real unique selling proposition. All the hard work done in the early 1900s and in the 1980s by dedicated city forest officials will be ruined if the road widening program is carried out without keeping avenue trees preservation in mind. Such large heritage trees cannot be replanted due to lack of space on the widened roads and this wealth will therefore be lost forever if these trees are felled.

Recommendations

Many of these roads which BBMP proposes to widen are inside the city core and many residential and commercial properties have been established over the years. If these are taken over for road widening, many citizens will have to move to other areas for no fault of their own, with loss to their business or be forced to living in areas where there are few facilities.

While Bangalore Environment Trust recommends that the widening program for 91 city roads be relooked based on fresh traffic studies, it has identified six core city roads where the large avenue trees need to be preserved at all cost. This will lead to the saving of about 700 large and irreplaceable avenue trees of all types across the inner city.

At a very minimum, we request that the city authorities desist from widening these six core heritage roads of the inner city which still have large avenue trees and contribute greatly to lowering temperatures over a large area.

 

We have made our recommendations with the help of nine guidelines which we hope will be generally useful to city planners. For each of the six roads mentioned above, we have identified the applicable guidelines and made some preliminary recommendations.

We are enclosing the set of general guidelines as well as a short discussion on each of the six identified roads, taken as examples 1 to 6.

While recognising that some roads need to be widened and projects like the metro, BRT and so on are absolute essentials our request to preserve these six inner city roads is not unreasonable and that BBMP will be in a position to consider the same very favourably, before any work is taken up.

Widening guideline for inner city roads

Do not cut trees on a main road with large avenue trees if:

1. It is already one-way with two or three lanes in one direction.

2. It is already a four lane or six lane  road

3. It is a four or six lane road continued with a narrower road (widen the narrow road instead!)

4. An underpass / magic box / flyover construction is planned already on the road.

5. An overhead road is planned on this route

6. There is space to build an additional lane on the other side of the tree line.

7. Coordinated traffic lights on the road can speed up traffic

8. Widen the road up to the tree line can improve width by 6-10 ft on each side

9. A bus bay can expedite traffic on crowded bus routes

Save these roads now

Example 1

Queen’s Road from Cantonment Station Road to Indian Express (Queens) circle – 1.5 kms

Guidelines 1 and 7 or 4 apply.

It is already one way with three or even four lanes at some points. Traffic light coordination between Indian Express, and Minsk Square and Infantry Road junction can speed up traffic.

It is only the crowded junction at Indian Express that is the problem. Widening beyond the existing four lanes one way will not help.

If need be, an underpass at Indian Express, with much smaller loss of trees can be planned.

About 30 trees will be saved and traffic will move under a great shaded canopy.

Example 2

Cantonment Station Road from Millers Road  to St John’s Church Road –  2 kms

Guidelines 1,4 and  7 apply.

This are already two lanes one way and has some of the largest trees in the city on one side.

A magic box at St John’s Church Road end may help. This may be worth considering.

Building an additional traffic lane on the other side of the line of trees can be planned. Railways can be requested to surrender some land on the north boundary of this road, for this 25 very large rain trees of heritage status will be saved

Example 3

Sankey Road from Cauvery theatre to Bhashyam Circle –  0.5 kms

Guidelines 2 and 3 apply

The road along the Sankey Tank after Bhashyam circle (to Yeshwantpur) is very narrow. Hence this should first be widened and no widening should be done on the 4 lane stretch from Cauvery to Bhashyam Circle

Underpass at CNR Rao Circle is already being built with loss of many trees. Hence traffic will automatically improve without widening this stretch.

Many diverse and large trees like gul mohar, copper pod, rain tree, tamarind, fig and so on will be saved. About 100 trees will be saved upto Yeshwantpur Circle!

Example 4

Outer ring road from Bannerghatta Road (Jedi Mara) to Kanakapura road –  3.5 kms

Guidelines 2,4,8 all apply.

It is already a very broad four lane road. An underpass is already getting ready on this stretch. The trees along 3 kms length are very beautiful and set back 6-8 ft from the road. Hence the road can be widened upto the tree line, without cutting the trees.

Hundreds of properties will also be preserved on this road.

About 200 trees will be saved.

Example 5

Hosur Lashkar Road from Cemetery to Vellara junction ( Richmond Road) – 1.5 km
.
Guidelines 2, 3 and 7 can apply

This are already four lanes except a short stretch near the masjid. The masjid and All Saints Church walls can be shifted to create four lanes here. Also signals at Langford Road, Johnson Market and Vellara Junction, Castle Street and Museum Road  can be coordinated by computer control to improve traffic flow.

Many large and old trees on this stretch can be saved and no further widening is needed.

About 150 trees will be saved.

Example 6

Hosur Road (Dr Marigowda Road) Lalbagh gate to Nimhans near Dairy Circle –  1.5 kms

Guidelines 2, 6 and 9 apply.

This has very large trees on both sides and is a four lane road. Bus bays are badly required at Lakkasandra and Nimhans stops on both sides. Rest of the traffic will then flow easily. There is already a  flyover at Dairy circle and this is not effective because of the lack of large bus bays on this road.

Nimhans and Kidwai Hospital Cooperation can be taken to build the large bus bays.

Coordination of signals at Wilson Gardens and Dairy Circle can help in smooth flow.

About 150 large trees will be saved. ⊕

4 Comments

  1. BBMP has a bunch of non-planners (I wish to call them jokers!) in planning department. First they create chaos in the old well planned residential areas and they start ranting about road widening citing traffic jams. A normal citizen of Jayanagar and J P Nagar is appalled to see the recent traffic chaos in Jayanagar 9th Block near Ragigudda area because of unthoughtful grant of permission to Bangalore Central, Chrome, Big bazaar etc for opening their massive shops bang on the road without any parking spaces. At the place of Chrome, it was Woodies earlier and they did not have parking issue because they had planned the space well with parking space left, but look at Chrome area now. Same issue is plaguing 8th Main area of Dollars layout. MK Ahmed market and lot of other big shops are coming up with NO parking space bang in the middle of residential area. People are just parking cars on the roads to do shopping be it real or window shopping. Congestions – bound to happen and beautiful residential sites ? BBMP cares a dirt for them.

    The main culprit in Bangalore crashing down is because we have non-planners in our BBMP and BDA offices who are just creating chaos by creating unwarranted shopping complexes in wrong places and then making money at the peril of poor citizens of Bangalore.

  2. BBMP and the Minister for Transports have one track mind only in deciding the road widening . Their only aim is to handle increase in traffic . They will not hesitate to create extensive damage to Apartment complexes that have been built as per approved plans years ago without having any consideration of other vacant lands on the opposite side of the road available in the area. As long as theirs and/or their valuable friends’ properties are not involved , they take decisions unilaterally . There have been no scientific studies prior to deciding the roads to be widened. For example, Uttarahalli Road is targeted for widening. There are several bottlenecks along the entire length and some properties belong to powerful groups. They are not touched at all. Secondly, Uttarahalli road ends in a T junction and where do they expect the heavy traffic to go further? Why are they allowing heavy vehicles and Tractor trailers in this road when they can use the Ring Road? Why can’t they think of shifting factories in this area away from their existing locations and thereby reducing the traffic flow demands? It is a matter of deep concern for the Residents of our locality . I request all those affected by the Road Widening Programmes to be united and put up a strong resistance / fight through Courts and stop this mindless approach of BBMP .

  3. Excellent analysis and recommendations. But how do we make the numbskulls in the BBMP understand this?

  4. Thanks for an indepth article. At the moment, I will talk only of #6 which I use regularly. It is a very cool road. Yes,at times traffic is heavy. One of the things which should be done soon is to stop the buses to and from Tamilnadu somewhere in MAdivala area. It is these buses which create lot of traffic problems on that road. It would be criminal if the trees on this road ( and other roads mentioned in the article ) are cut . I have witnessed large scale felling near Madivala masjid which used to be a cool area. It is so bare now and hot ! It should not happen elsewhere

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