Wish you all a happy new year!
I was posting some thoughts on twitter about my new year wish list items for Pune for 2013. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, nor is it listed in any particular order of priority. I have just copied my ‘tweets’ (with some edits) and converted them into a short blog post here. May add some more points later.
– BRTS expansion is put on hold. (No expansion before the current 5 year old implementation (Satara, Hadapsar Roads) mess is fixed!)
– Turnaround in PMPML Operations, purchase of 500 new buses…Better Buses, Better Routes/Frequencies.
– Traffic Police get some serious resources (man-power, equipment) augmentation. Better enforcement!
– Final approval of a realistic and practical Metro Plan – Plan for an Underground Metro in city area.
– Implementation of mini-buses on congested city routes. Circular routes: Laxmi Rd, Deccan, MG Rd,.. areas with 3-5 min freq
– After addressing critical concerns, work starts on key fly-overs and road projects (too much debate in 2012! :( …)
– The new airport site (Chakan, Rajgurunagar, wherever..) is finally fixed and work begins!
– A sustained effort to make the city pedestrians friendly! – crossings, footpaths, etc.
– Clarity in water allocation for city (16 TMC), implementation of water-meters, urgent fix for distribution losses.
– Garbage Segregation is made mandatory (and implemented with strict fine).
– Would like Pune to be the first city to BAN ALL ILLEGAL, POLITICAL FLEX BANNERS!
– Focus on clearing up encroachments across the city – specific focus on the city hills and open spaces!
This sounds like a Bollywood story of the 1970s …. two twins get separated at birth. One gets to enjoy the luxuries of the modern world, a great loving and caring family and comfort…gets to have all the fun and entertainment he desires. Has a great bunch of siblings and friends.
And then there’s the poor brother! He is subjected to immense hardships…Uncaring step-parents (who for some reason seem to always wear white uniforms) ….A society that tries very hard (successfully I may add) in making sure that he doesn’t come anywhere close to realizing his full potential. He is perennially subjected to abuse and is often shackled by the environment he lives in. Rarely does he catch a glimpse of freedom (if at all)…and that too is extremely short lived.
Ok – enough of Bollywood…and why am I boring myself with it :-) . But wait, I am not really talking about Bollywood, am I? The separated twins are in fact two impressive V8 BMWs that were produced together at the same assembly plant near Munich in Southern Germany. One had a small trip to make to Dusseldorf, and got to rule the Autobahns! While the other got ‘shipped’ to the Nhava Sheva Port in Western India, was subjected to the ‘misery’ on Indian Roads :-).
[Note you are welcome to create Tollywood and Mollywood equivalents of this story … just replace the BMWs with Mercedes and Audis. ]
Isn’t it a sheer joy to see these beautiful, elegant and powerful performance machines, ‘steadily’ ambling on Indian Roads? I am sure their designers in Germany would be proud to see their magnificent creations cruising at a ‘fast’ 20 kmph (what’s that – just a difference of a ‘0’ from their intended speeds)…I guess , as much pride as a breeder of thorough-bred horses would get from seeing a racetrack winner, carrying a groom in a wedding procession :-)
I mean, you do need those 300 (or even 400) BHP engines that can do 0-100 kmph in less than 6 sec, to drive in Pune traffic…yes, definitely! And all those ‘Must-Have’ features like 4 Wheel Drive, Anti-Slip/Traction/Stability Controls, 8 Airbags, Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning Systems, Night Vision, etc…etc. are a must for Mumbai! And what better way to navigate on Indian Roads than use the latest built-in sophisticated voice-guided Satellite GPS Navigation System? The system for sure is more ‘intelligent’ and ‘effective’ than the neighborhood ‘Panwala’ when it comes to finding local street directions .
On a few small occasions these mechanical thorough-breeds get to gallop a bit…that is if they manage to escape Pune Traffic…and head to the Pune-Mumbai Expressway. The Expressway itself is a poor cousin of the German Autobahn (not with respect to the road quality itself, but the way some of the smaller brethren behave on these roads – endangering everyone around them!). Still, touching 100 kmph or at times even 150 kmph must be satisfying for sure. But just when the fun starts, these cars are welcomed by ‘Navi Mumbai’…and then by…Chembur and Sion…what more can I say!
Like in Bollywood, there are no happy endings to this story :(
It is that time of the year…the time for making resolutions and wish lists. While I am not making any for myself, I sure have a wish list for Pune Traffic. Call me a pessimist, but would be thrilled to see even a small number of these fulfilled :)
1. Complete Ongoing Projects: How about seeing the completion of long held projects? One example is Baner Road, which it seems is running as a ‘5-year plan’ :) Also, a general observation – many traffic infrastructure projects are never ‘fully’ completed. Many are luckier than Baner Road, but still have that last 5% work pending forever!
2. More One-ways: One-ways work….Period. Laxmi Road, M.G. Road are great examples of this for decades. The much anticipated JM Road/FC Road one-way system finally happened in 2009. Yes, there will always be opposing voices…but look at the overall city context. A person living on FC Road might have be inconvenienced (e.g. having to drive 100 m more to get to his house…) and could voice displeasure against the one-way. But 100 people travelling from Kothrud to Pune Station are getting huge benefits! More one-way projects should be considered in 2010. The top one on my personal wish list is Prabhat Road/Bhandarkar Road one-way system.
3. Fix Stuff That Worked Before: Is this too much to expect? At the very least, infrastructure (especially signals) that worked before should work after any new project! Two glaring examples are the signals at Baner Phata/ITI Road in Aundh and Senapati Bapat Road/Ganeshkhind Road intersections. These signals worked perfectly fine until 3 years back. Now when the traffic has grown over 3 times in the past 3 years, these signals are dead…silent witnesses to the chaos around them!
4. Road Markings: Hope it’s not too much to ask for road markings/lanes/crossings/etc. to be clearly marked. Yes, I know – Pune drivers (especially those on two wheelers) don’t believe in them and many other things; yet these markings do make a modest difference :)
5. Pedestrians: How about some attention to the poor pedestrians? Good (well placed and well painted) Zebra Crossings are a good start. Traffic Lights at crossings, even better! And keeping Footpaths clear of anything other than Pedestrians, well…maybe I am asking for too much again :)
6. Helmets/Seat-Belts/Airbags: Let 2010 be the year where the brave 2-wheeler riders of Pune, finally see the ‘light’ and start ‘voluntarily’ adopting helmets! Failing which, hope they understand – they might end up seeing a light from a ‘heavenly’ place :) And seatbelts being used in cars.
And yes, I know airbags are not yet mandatory in Indian Cars. But a sincere request to many who can afford to pay a little more when buying a car. Buy one with airbags! And how about not using mobile phones while driving?
7. Work Begins In Earnest On Highway Projects: The good news of 2009 was the approval of Pune-Solapur Road and Pune Satara Road 6-Laning Projects, along with the allotment of the construction contracts. Hope the work starts in earnest towards the planned 2011 completion. And it would be great if some more progress gets done on finalization of the Easterly Bypass and the Outer Ring Road for Pune.
8. Cycles – Pune was the bicycle capital of the world for many years. Now this great eco-friendly invention is dying here L Efforts to resurrect it are sporadic. For starters, would be great to see the Cycle Tracks (that, believe it or not, do exist at some places!) are translated into an actual reality.
9. Better utilization of the BRTS Lanes – I am not going to comment on whether BRTS is a good idea or not. Entire blogs could be dedicated for that :) However, now that those BRTS Lanes are a reality, how about implementing and utilizing them more effectively? I understand the need for dedicated lanes during rush hours (when the busses ply with high frequency). But, how about considering some changes during non-peak hours? Hope some sensible middle-ground is achieved in 2010!
10. And last but not the least – Would be great to see all the existing traffic rules being enforced in 2010!
I have been hearing that Pune is planning to make wearing car seat-belts mandatory. This is a good development, and hopefully an indication that the authorities are increasingly worrying about the safety of drivers.
The fact that seat-belts are a useful safety measure – no one would ever argue against. But why stop at seatbelts?! Why not a driver-side airbag? Why not dual airbags? Why not side-restraint airbags? Why not collision warning sensors? Why not mandatory front and real crumple zones?
Ok, I think I might have already made my point…But to elucidate it further – While all safety equipments are useful, prioritizing simple (and often times more effective) ones over more complicated expensive ones, is critical. Just think of how many injuries can be prevented by simply enforcing existing traffic rules, instead of creating new ones?
Typical Pune City traffic moves (‘crawls’ is probably a more appropriate description) at an average speed of 20 km/hr or less. At that speed, one wonders to what extent seatbelts would be really effective. Seatbelts become life-savers at highway speeds. In case of accidents, they help in restraining the driver and the passengers, as the vehicle comes to an abrupt standstill.
Here is a list of 10 basic things that I think can make a greater impact on road safety on Pune City Roads. I am sure there are many more that can be added to this list. Note – I am not commentating on how and when these issues can be implemented / addressed. That’s for the various authorities/agencies to decide. I am simply pointing these generic issues out to highlight their priorities versus additional and newer safety regulations.
1. Road Dividers
Wherever feasible, road dividers need to be put in place where none exist. Many accidents happen due to head-on collisions, and these can be prevented by segmenting traffic by dividers.
Existing dividers need to be fixed with proper barriers, so that pedestrians can cross only at pre-designated points.
2. Better Traffic Planning (One-Ways, etc.)
This is a broad point, but I will add some specifics. Effective one-way planning helps a great deal in streamlining traffic and preventing traffic chaos. Many times though, citizens end up being big opponents of one-way plans, since everyone in Pune wants to go to where they want to, by the shortest direct route!
3. ‘Road ownership’ – Construction Sites
There is no clear ownership of ‘roads’ near a road-construction site. Hence there is no proper demarcation of where the construction ends, and where the proper road starts. Many months after the construction is supposedly over, one finds debris lying nearby. This creates major traffic hazards.
4. Improper lanes/absence of any lanes
Lane traffic is virtually non-existent in Pune. Most roads are too narrow; however that should not be an excuse for not having lanes in the first place. Drivers have no concept (and training) of lanes and drive in a ‘crisscross’ manner. Here again, there is a need to demarcate clear lanes, and then enforce lane discipline (they do it very well in Mumbai).
5. Enforce Signals
This sounds so basic; yet a critical need. The number of drivers who jump signals or utterly disregard them is increasing. Enforcing signals through the use of technology (cameras, etc.) is something that can be looked at.
6. Mobile phone users
A scary sight in Pune is a 2-Wheeler Driver having an animated conversation on his/her cell-phone! This is serious. In some ways, this can be as dangerous as drunken driving! (A little exaggeration may be…but the most important thing in driving on these busy roads is focused attention!)
7. Rash Drivers (all vehicles)
Rash driving is rampant in Pune. This is applicable across all categories of vehicles. Not sure how each and every rash driver can be disciplined, but this is one of the biggest risk areas as far as Pune traffic is concerned.
8. Pedestrian pathways, crossings
Some blame (and corresponding corrections) should also go the way of pedestrians. Understand that many places there are no good crossings/foot-paths. But even if they are there, pedestrians routinely don’t use them and literally walk in the middle of the road. School zones are scary with children running all over the place in a busy intersection.
9. Parking Rules
Parking rules are very important. Improper parking creates traffic chaos and leads to other traffic problems, including accidents.
10. Highways Rules
For highways, I do agree that making seatbelts mandatory would be very useful. However, as discussed earlier – implementing the basic traffic rules is also critical. Two fundamental problems that cause many highway accidents are: a) Overcrowding of vehicles, b) Drowsy Drivers. These need to be checked as well.