The Chord Road, or ‘West of Chord’ Road as it is popularly known, is an important road linking Tumkur Road in the North to Mysore Road in the South Bengaluru. As the name suggests it is a ‘chord’ — a straight line joining two points on a circle — cutting across the ever expanding circle that is Bangalore.
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Unlike most roads in Bangalore, when it was built several years ago a lot of planning went in to it — the road is a wide double road with service roads on either sides. It had a beautiful canopy of Gulmohar and Rain trees covering it for most of the way.
Over the last few years, however, thanks to various development drives — underpasses, overpasses, metro — the road has been destroyed. Many trees have been killed and the road has lost a lot of its charm. It is still a very nice road — but I fear soon that will no longer be the case. The latest plan of the government is to build a couple of more underpasses — killing more trees as they go along.
Though I am a regular commuter on this road, I must say that I fail to see the problem. Traffic signals take a few minutes — at most two minutes in my experience — so this is not really serious. Traffic flow is largely smooth. There are a few problem spots as I have outlined below — but the proposed solution does not address most of them. For the last several years, the Magadi Road underpass construction, followed by the Metro construction in two parts of the road, has caused some delays. They are just about coming to an end. Building underpasses now will choke the road for at least another three years.
The proposed solution
The solution proposed by the government — which, to my understanding is all but executed — involves building two underpasses. One is at the junction of Chord road with 10th Cross (Rajajinagar) /12th Cross (Basaveshwara Nagar) — the numbering depends on which side of Chord Road you are on — and the other is at the junction of Chord Road and Vatal Nagaraj Road (59th Cross Road).
The cost of these underpasses will be around 30 crores each. Further, 150 trees will be cut. I feel these plans foolhardy and completely unnecessary. As I commute on it regularly — several times a week either by car or cycle during rush hour — I have spent some time analysing the problems of the road and think that with effective traffic management the situation can be greatly improved. Let me add that the situation is not bad as it is. For what is at most a three-minute wait at a signal, they want to build an underpass.
The real problem
The real problem with Chord Road — which, I must stress that as a regular commuter it is not that bad, is that there is a stretch of Chord Road — between the Kuvempu Road/Modi Hospital Road underpass and the Magadi Road underpass — where there are five signals within a distance of 1.5 km. Three of these can easily be eliminated.
The first one is just shortly after you cross the Kuvempu underpass travelling South, near the water tank road. There is a small road coming up on the side on the right. Vehicles seem to want to use this small road to cross Chord Road and make an illegal left turn towards Malleshwaram near the BWSSB Water Tank. If this junction is closed, the vehicles can simply use the overpass at Kuvempu Road for the same purpose.
This is in fact a very dangerous junction as there is a significant slope up from the side road and this means that the vehicles coming from the side have to rev up their engines to climb it and cannot stop easily. The solution is to either close it and make people use the overpass 100 metres away — or build a ‘magic box’ underpass at this junction. In either case, this junction should be closed.
The second one is just slightly ahead where there is a signal at the junction of Water Tank Road and Chord Road. Here too, the signal is unnecessary. The major junction is at the left and most of the traffic turns left — the road on the right is a rather minor road and very little traffic turns right. Here too, the signal can be eliminated and all the traffic can be made to turn left. The few vehicles that want to turn right can do so at the next junction.
The next junction is a major one — at the junction with Vatal Nagaraj Road — and there is a signal here. There is no need for an underpass here as it will just take a couple of minutes to cross.
Another 200 metres ahead is yet another signal. Here too, there is a minor road on the right and for that minor road most of the Chord Road traffic is stopped. The traffic on the minor road can be made to use the service roads to enter Chord Road.
Finally, just before the Magadi Road underpass there is yet another signal. Here a lot of traffic coming from the south turns left onto a small road — essentially leading them to Raj Kumar Road. This is again needless — if the access to Magadi Road before the underpass is made better, most of the traffic can be made to use that. The point is that smaller roads should not be used as shortcuts — they disturb the peace of the neighbourhoods.
The other issue that should be addressed is that the problems also lie on the roads where the proposed underpasses are to be built — not on Chord Road. For instance, a lot of electronic shops have been opened on on 10th Cross Rajajinagar stretch. Parking is completely haphazard. The road was recently dug up by some public utility and has not been fixed. The junction with 19th Main Road is a mess — as that has become a major road — at least at the moment. It is these problems that should be sorted out first — massacre of trees and building of underpasses is a last resort.
The solution to most of Bangalore’s traffic problem is not widening of roads, not building underpasses etc. — but managing traffic better. This means — building good quality roads, fixing junctions so that traffic can turn smoothly, building good footpaths so that pedestrians are not forced to walk on the road, enforcing road rules — so that vehicles do not park obstructing traffic, vehicles do not go the wrong way on one-way roads, auto rickshaws do not stop where they please and obstruct buses etc. All this applies to Chord Road — and if this is done, there would be a tremendous improvement in the traffic flow.
Chord Road is ‘blessed’ with service roads on either sides for most of the way. However, these roads are encroached by shops — for instance car repair shops or construction material shops — who believe it is their right to use the road in front of their shops for their work. I am not entirely familiar with the law, but I am quite sure this is illegal. The 30-60 crores that is to be spent on building underpasses is perhaps much better spent on building footpaths and fixing up the road and its service roads. The service roads in several places are in a state of disrepair. The junctions with other intersections are also quite poor. For instance, in several locations, the traffic from the side roads block the service road.
As you travel further South, towards Vijay Nagar, here too several improvements can be made. There are beautifully designed bus bays — however, they are often not used and busses stop in the middle of the road. Many of the bus bays are occupied by illegally parked vehicles.
Another problematic point is the Vijay Nagar bus stand. Here a pedestrian underpass was built — but is closed most of the time. Traffic flow is poor as the signals are not well co-ordinated and often confusing — there is a signal which shows a red light along with a green straight arrow!.
The attached map shows the problem junctions — the red indicates slow traffic. It’s clear that the traffic is needlessly slowed at several places. I fear that this appeal to sanity may be too late — the massacre of the trees has already begun at the junction of 10th Main and Chord road! Will this insanity never end?
Around 150 trees are being cut on Chord Road, to build underpasses, most of whcih could easily be avoided by making a better use of the existing roads. Pic:Ramesh Sreekantan