Traffic

Traffic of the vehicular kind. Not the one I see on this blog. It’s not just traffic, it’s terrorism on roads. Every day. Every minute. I’m petrified of road accidents, and the people in Pune (or anywhere else in India, for that matter) don’t let me breathe easy whenever I travel.

I had written about traffic earlier:

Just read an article on Wired on ideas for smoother traffic flow. Some ideas suggested are not having any signs or signals at intersections, so drivers are more cautious and so on. Well, it kind of works that way here in Pune, with people ignoring signals, pedestrians walking on streets instead of footpaths, cyclists and bikers zipping through the footpaths at times to avoid a long queue of vehicles and so on.

And plus, the potholes, speed-brakers and gutters (which are not aligned with the road height) do ensure the vehicles don’t race beyond a particular limit.

I guess the Indian road authorities had this all figured out much, much earlier!

However, there’s more to add to the terrorism aspect of traffic:

Terror

- Everyone has a birthright to honk, and honk hard. People blow their horns to signal to others:
– that they’re overtaking from the wrong side
– that they’re overtaking from the right side
– that they’re speeding at a crossing and everyone else who hears the horn has to stop, or else…
– to communicate with passers-by
– that they’re about to cross the just-turned-red signal and all others should wait for him / her to cross

- Everyone has a right to spit out of their cars / buses / trucks.
– While waiting at a signal or passing a bus, make sure you alert the passengers of your existence else you’ll be spat upon.

- No one respects road dividers (even if they exist). If someone has to turn to the road on the other side of a divider, one doesn’t go slightly further and make a U-turn. You cut the road and drive on the other side

- Cyclists will never wear light clothes or reflectors. It’s upto the others to detect their presence and avoid them at nights

- Everyone drives with high beam at nights, blinding the traffic on the other side. Pedestrians, cyclists — never safe.

- Buses / trucks never stop in the space allotted to them. They occupy the whole road.

Did I mention I’m petrified of road accidents? I’ve seen people involved in road accidents scream in agony in hospitals. Young people. Those who like to speed across the roads, flaunting their flashy bikes and mobiles. Ending up in hospitals and screaming. I wonder if death is better than such a state after a road accident.

Government Apathy

I was headed out in my new car. I was waiting at a junction for the signal to go green. It went green, I went ahead, and bam! A biker from my left rammed straight into the car. He broke his signal. He justified by saying “left is a free turn” and that he could take it anytime. What’s alarming is he had zero visibility of my car due to some other car in front of him. Why do people race at crossings, and also go into blind territory? I wonder how many people overtake buses, cars, etc., only to find someone crossing and dashing into them?

Immediately after this accident, I was surrounded by the colleagues of the biker. One trainee cop did come up to the scene of the accident, but he was shooed away by the mob. I had no other go but to get the dents serviced at my own expense. I just kept wondering: I pay so much of tax each year, what do I get in return? Bad roads and no justice. Is there nothing a law-abiding citizen can expect his elected representative do anything for him?

Idea for a smoother traffic flow

Inspite of all this, I remain optimistic. With the traffic in Pune (and every Indian city) growing by the minute, I thought of something that is eco-friendly, traffic-friendly as well as people-friendly. Trams. Why not install trams in Pune that ferry people between hotspots and the central areas? For example, the Hinjewadi tech park to Shivajinagar, Magarpatta to Pune Station or Swargate, and then connect Shivajinagar, Pune Station, Swargate, Deccan, Kothrud, Aundh, etc.? There’s no risk of the trams stopping in the middle of the roads causing inconvenience. They can operate on electricity, which can be generated by nuclear, wind or solar energy (or a combination of them all). Travel within the city is already a pain with the auto rickshaw people being very uncooperative and the buses killing people and breaking traffic rules. This will also help take off a lot of private vehicles on roads and also the shuttles that companies ply in the city for employeees. Pollution (air, noise) levels will drop drastically.

Please, please do something like this.

3 thoughts on “Traffic”

  1. >Amit,

    I can understand your pain and desperation. I am glad that you are optimistic and not just blaming government for problems. We have to focus on how to improve the situation. So let’s talk about solutions.

    Studies have shown that encouraging public transportation over personal vehicles helps to reduce various traffic problems. So you are right in suggesting trams, but that is long term solution. Right now immediate solution would be to help PMPML (Public bus service in Pune Chichwad). There are number of ways one can help PMPML.

    1. People should try to use bus whenever possible, instead of personal transit.

    2. People should travel only when it is “really” necessary.

    3. People can participate in discussion (whenever they happen), when PMPML takes feedback from citizens.

    I am myself working on a small software project which will make PMPML bus schedule easily available on Internet. If you are software programmer please do contact me. My gmail id is vijay.patil.

    Some useful links:

    http://www.pttf.net
    See download section.

    http://www.pmtpune.org/

    Now about parking and proper stops for buses, it will take some time. Studies have shown that good builders/contractors are just not interested in low profit and troubled business of city road construction. There is 200 page World Bank report on this. It also mention severe engineering talent crunch in Civil engg. due to IT. Let me know if you want this report.

    Finally you should know that every small effort by citizens (like your blog post) paves a way for better future. A future where we will be proud of ourselves and not embarrassed.

  2. >Vijay, your initiative is good and in the right direction.

    I feel the need for trams is urgent. Saying it’s a long-term project tends to make people think of “patchy” short-term projects which don’t get executed well-enough, exactly because people think they’re short-term projects.

    The traffic situation here is bad anyway. It can get worse. The only thing that can help is more use of public transportation. So you’re right in saying that we should use public transport more often. I hope your website caters to the public. Please drop a link here or in my mail when you’re live.

    Simultaneously, we should start building on the bigger, better projects that will surely help us in the next few years.

    I sincerely believe by trams as I’ve seen them elsewhere (Zurich) and for the reasons I’ve mentioned above.

  3. >Amit,

    “we should use public transport more often. I hope your website caters to the public. Please drop a link here or in my mail when you’re live.”

    Yes. I will let you know whenever it’s ready.

    “Simultaneously, we should start building on the bigger, better projects that will surely help us in the next few years.”

    I agree. But we have make sure that we have enough capability (engineering and project management, quality assurance) to execute such projects successfully. It would definitely help to study successful project and learn from them. If citizens like us are aware of “good practices” to make project successful then they can play active/useful role.

    You are probably aware of Delhi Metro, which is considered as a successful project. E. Sreedharan of Delhi metro has shared “good practices” which helped to make this project successful. You can access it on following link:

    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/Features/Corporate_Dossier/Straight_Talk_with_E_Sreedharan/articleshow/msid-3529132,curpg-1.cms

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