Last Friday, Bengaluru City Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao issued a notification barring private vehicles on the bus priority lane (BPL) in Outer Ring Road. The BPL – between Silk Board to KR Puram and then towards Baiyappanahalli – will benefit around a lakh Bengalureans commuting in over 800 buses everyday, says the BMTC.
Authorities presume that the BPL will increase the speed and efficiency of BMTC buses, encouraging more people to use buses, and thereby will reduce traffic in the ORR. But there’s been a major concern since the inception of the project – how can Bengaluru’s unruly motorists be stopped from encroaching into the bus lane? Are there enough traffic police personnel and a budget to ensure this?
In a brief chat with us on the ground realities and challenges of enforcement around BPL, B R Ravikanthe Gowda – Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Bengaluru and Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) – decided to answer a few queries.
The Bengaluru Traffic Police (BTP) has no additional personnel or budget to monitor violations along the BPL, Gowda confirmed. However, he says that the fines for violations will deter motorists. In the first week since the police notification of bus lane, BTP is creating awareness among motorists. But from November 23rd, penalties will be levied on those encroaching the bus lane, Gowda said.
Gowda says they are in talks with the BBMP to release BBMP Marshals to support traffic enforcement along the bus lane. But it seems that, for now, BTP will have to manage the lane with its existing staff alone.
BBMP sources its Marshals from the Karnataka Ex-Serviceman Welfare Society, and have currently deployed them for solid waste management (SWM) at the ward level. D Randeep, BBMP Special Commissioner (SWM) told us that these ward marshals are unlikely to be deployed for the BPL project.
Another senior BBMP official said that the BTP is yet to send a proposal to the BBMP Road Infrastructure wing on the number of personnel it needs. “BBMP will study the feasibility, number of staff and the cost factor for employing personnel at the ORR. Only after this, staff will be sanctioned, ” he said.
For now, in addition to traffic police personnel on the ground, BTP is considering using CCTV footage from buses and the ORR to send tickets to violators. BTP has also requested the state government to double the penalty for encroachment into the bus lane, Gowda said.
Read the full interview below:
In the first week since the Police Commissioner’s notification, can you share your impression of how well the bus priority lane (BPL) is operating?
We understand there may be relatively low awareness among people about BPL, and therefore there’s a need to impress upon the motorist, pedestrians and public at large about its utility. So, at the moment, in the first week we are launching the awareness phase of BPL.
En-route ORR, our personnel are distributing flyers both in Kannada and English, and our IT team is employing social media to spread awareness on BPL. We are explaining to commuters and motorists the benefit of BPL not only for mass transport services but also for emergency and critical services including fire or ambulance. Otherwise, people by large have been co-operative.
What will be BTP’s role in the enforcement and monitoring of BPL?
Besides the awareness drive, our personnel are orally cautioning and signalling riders to vacate the BPL. However exactly one-week post the notification, after November 23rd, we will commence enforcement of the notification. This includes imposition of fines on violators under section 177 of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019.
Will fines be sufficient to deter these violators?
It will act as a deterrent. However, we will recommend to state government that the penalty for first-time offenders be enhanced from Rs 500 to Rs 1000, and Rs 2000 for every subsequent offence. This will be more effective and serve as a reminder to violators, we felt.
How will BTP identify motorists who violate BPL?
First, we will rely on our staff on the ground who will impose penalty on any vehicle breaching the BPL zone. Second, CCTV cameras deployed in buses and ORR will be considered for sending violation tickets to errant motorists.
Besides, we are also in the talks with BBMP for giving us additional manpower in the form of Marshals. They will be deployed throughout the stretch, and can aid in monitoring, regulation of traffic rules and even identifying violators.
Will you deploy additional personnel for managing BPL?
We don’t have any additional budget allocation for the project. We will be relying on the BBMP for additional manpower to support the enforcement and regulation of traffic at ORR.
When will bollards or barricades be installed to demarcate BPL?
As of now, the BPL has been painted red in colour. Yes, we are aware that the BBMP and traffic experts had proposed to erect bollards on BPL, but we were not in favour of it. This is mostly because bollards are permanent structures, not flexible to the changing traffic demands; and can cause a lot of inconvenience for traffic development, road infrastructure on a long run. Also, bollards have one of the lowest visibilities at night, inviting more risk to motorists.
Alternatively, we have suggested that ‘reflective cones’ be placed, as these will act as a physical barrier for motorists, but also offer future scope for displacement and reinstallation.
What are challenges have traffic police personnel been facing in the pilot phase?
We have come across a number of instances where the users of rental bikes or even regular riders park their vehicles along the BPL. We highly discourage such practices. It can cause a major blockade both for buses and emergency vehicles at critical times. We will impose penalty and take stringent legal action against those institutions or individuals who misuse the BPL.
Bus lane may work in some countries where traffic congestion is minimal. In a country like India where traffic burst to the edge with jams common during peak hours, how will the Bus lane work? Why not have one lane reserved for trucks, one for 2-wheelers and one for small/medium 4 wheelers. Traffic will look so good and smooth. Oops we don’t have 4 lane roads here! Theory seems great but is it practical. What should vehicles do if they break down? What should drivers do if they have to take left turn? It is easy to claim that Bangaloreans are unruly drivers. I would say, may be a few. But why not be honest and say that they are practical. Often traffic police will ask vehicles to proceed by wrong direction as that can quickly de-congest traffic. That traffic personnel is practical. What looks wrong can solve a problem, so why not. The reason for the traffic situation is high density of population within the city. The city should have been planned better and office/residential locations should have been better regulated. Bad traffic like water scarcity are just the end products. Blaming tax paying citizens are just a easy immoral solution of the politicians.
Please take a look at the so called bus lanes. Many of the places don’t even have bus lanes marked out, on the entire stretch between Tin Factory to HSR Layout, what’s the use of such bus lanes that do not even have continuity. Buses break down on the bus lane causing kms ling traffic jam.