It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the reasons behind traffic congestion. First, a sincere round of applause for all commuters who despite lack of traffic signals at most intersections manage to peacefully negotiate and reach their destinations.
People do follow directions as is evident when there is a police officer on the road (trying to do his/her best). This shows that we are very accommodating by nature but we are also deeply frustrated from long delays and a system that does not reward good drivers. Here are some obvious problems seen on the road daily:
- Pedestrians strolling on the roadsides or waiting for the bus in large numbers
- Children trying to cross the road during school times
- Pedestrians trying to cross the road
- Two wheelers and three wheelers that add different speeds and dynamics
- Vendors selling on the side of the road
- Vehicles stopped on a busy highway on either sides of the road
- Vehicles double parked on the road
- Broken down vehicles on the road
- Poor condition of roads with pot holes
- Autos and taxis parked on the side for loading and unloading passengers
- Gross, blatant violation of traffic rules
- Heavy vehicles in narrow roads
- No proper signs and coordination of traffic at intersections
- Not enough law enforcement officers at sensitive points in the city
- Trash, garbage, construction material, debris, on the roads
Let’s get the basics right, enforce existing laws and involve local communities before thinking of something drastic such as road widening that will uproot massive number of people, destroy their dreams and create untold misery and havoc in daily commute to work and school. Can you point any of the above points that will be solved by road widening? It will only make the problem bigger! Its like making the artery bigger but the underlying health will continue to clog the arteries leading to a heart attack one day or the other.
Governing a city is not a joke. It is a truly rewarding work. It needs bright minds who have experience in urban and traffic planning, especially for a country with a population of a billion plus people such as India. The question is – is the government pursuing the right approach? First, the government should not assume that they have the best ideas. For a problem that affects a large populous, the government should seek ideas from the public, from the community leaders and even consider going for a vote on the proposition. That day is still a dream. For now, here are some common sense recommendations, in random order, for the above pain points that any one on the road will be able to provide:
- Enforce the existing traffic laws with adequate police staff
- Encourage eco-friendly transportation by creating exclusive bicycle lanes on all roads especially narrow roads
- Install traffic signs and pedestrian signs at every intersection including T-junctions
- Build pedestrian over head walkways or provide good pavements (with no holes and obstructions) for people to walk
- Make it difficult for people to jay-walk on highways when there are pedestrian walk areas. Same for bullock carts and hawker carts.
- Create traffic clearance police SWAT teams whose goal is to help broken down vehicles move to the nearest safe spot ASAP
- Clearly separate access to shops and business establishments from moving traffic
- Build designated vegetable, fruits and flower open air stands that are accessible to pedestrian traffic and not vehicular traffic
- Clean up the trash and debris every day and make sure people are not misusing the road during construction of their houses
- Create traffic routes and zones based on capacity of road. Don’t allow large heavy vehicles in small narrow roads. In particular don’t allow large vehicles (Tempo travelers, lorries, buses) in school zones.
- Create designated parking and no-parking spots on every road
- Clearly paint road boundaries on every road
- Design and install speed limit signs on every road
- Create a separate grade of license for all auto drivers, bus drivers, cab drivers that tests them on road sensitivity towards children in school zones, vendors, pedestrians, parking guidelines etc.
- Install a digital dashboard in a designated area in each neighborhood that announces community events and politician birthdays.
- Design bus stops and build bus stop bays so buses pull into the side of the road and not park right on it. Currently, people stand on the stone blocks and wait for the bus at the flyover!
We need to get this right for our future generations. We get only one chance to do it right. Lets pick one area at a time and make it a model. This requires huge investment too. Investment in hiring the best minds and spending adequate time in researching, designing, planning, coordinating and selling the solution.
I know what you are all thinking. All of this sounds great, but its never going to happen with the current political system. Herein lies the audacity of hope. May be we need some new thinking on how the government releases its funds towards infrastructure projects. For now, we may be happy if this appeals to any good government employee. We should probably reward him/her by renaming the street for a job well done.