Getting out and around in Bangalore is no mean feat for anyone, nowadays. Every part of the city seems to be competing for the level of madness that is created on its roads, junctions and bus stops. And my beloved area Marathahalli (Brookefield) where I have lived for 8 years has a strong contender in the Marathahalli Outer Ring Road (ORR) intersection. The region has been plagued with traffic issues since the railway overbridge (ROB) construction started in June 2006 and ended in April 2008. If the traffic pile up then was traumatic, the traffic flow now is horrific. The junction itself has been badly designed with right and left turns from all directions including from the narrow service roads leading up to the bridge over the ORR at Marathahalli.
For some time after the ROB was constructed, a signal was installed at the ORR junction. While it kept traffic moving at intervals, and allowed pedestrians to cross, it caused a vehicular pile up owing to the numerous turns from all directions from narrow roads leading to it. Then one morning, all the turns were blocked, except left turns. This led people to grumble about the extra distance required to travel on the Ring road on either side, before one could take a right turn. Alongwith this, someone in a traffic department somewhere also decided to remove the traffic lights as they probably thought that they were not required. In India, it seems that traffic lights are meant only for allowing traffic to pass. It is not considered the duty of the traffic police to provide amenities or assistance to pedestrians to cross at the junction.
Prior to the ROB, the junction over the ORR flyover had a signal, allowing all turns. At that time, the narrow ROB was the bottleneck causing traffic snarls. With the widening of the ROB, that bottleneck has eased or rather moved to the next junction, namely Kundalahalli Gate. Even after the ROB widening, there was a signal at the junction for some time. Many times, the signal is manually managed causing more traffic pile up (in my opinion) than using a programmed mode that allows traffic from all sides for a short while, but repeats at a higher frequency. The ring road itself has a divider. But at the junction on top of the Marathahalli flyover, there is no median.
Pedestrians are perhaps supposed to figure out strategies of their own and weave through the continuous oncoming traffic. So they often wait for a traffic pile up, to get across. Or if pedestrians are flighty enough, they rush. If this sounds bad, the worse was yet to come. And arrive it did, in style, one morning when I found out that the right turns were being allowed, once again from all directions and what is even better, there still is no traffic signal at the junction. It is indeed a feat for any pedestrian to cross this road, as they have to use ninja like rapid eye movements and reflexes to check all around, before make a dash through the traffic coming in all directions. Or hope the oncoming driver is kind enough to not honk your ears out or mow you down or swerve dangerously around you.
I travel by bus, normally and walk a lot, whenever possible. At these junctions, I often have to change buses and need to cross the junction. I feel that a lack of options also encourages pedestrians to behave wrongly and not try to follow any rules of where to cross roads because they know there is no safe place or time to cross. I have not approached anyone to remedy this situation. I would like to, but I am not sure whom to approach or the process involved. Many times, there are no police personnel at the junction. I have been thinking of raising this issue with a local volunteer who might be able to take it up with some elected representatives. Further, I am not aware if people were displaced as part of the ROB, as I did not see many residents in that region. There were mostly shops and similar establishments in that region. But I am certain that noise pollution and traffic has worsened, especially with ITPL traffic on weekdays and mall trotting crowds on weekends.
We could possibly make Abhimanyu (from the Mahabharata myth) proud with homing our skills of dealing with a modern day ‘chakravyuh’! While fit people may be able to manage, the junction is quite a terror for the elderly, infirm, people with disabilities and small children. It is really tough for one to navigate and manouevre through the traffic. If one thinks that the situation would be better earlier in the day, one would be surprised. Apparently all other vehicle drivers think so too, and decide to break any and every rule in any book (or outside of it) to take their turns leading to more ridiculous chaos around 7.00 or 7.30 am in the morning. This junction is a perfect example of bad planning, being totally blind and ignoring the problem on the ground leading to madness and mayhem throughout the week. A traffic signal system needs to be installed at such a junction that allows right and left turns from all 4 sides of the roads leading to the junction, definitely. And that must take into account the common pedestrian who is left at wits’ end to cross a simple road. Or is it asking for too much?