Sunday, May 27, 2012

Flyovers and Traffic Lights

There is a debate going on whether there should be a flyover from Jehangir Chowk to Rambagh or there should be a parallel surface road through the adjacent area. The debate is still going on in spite of the fact that the work on the project has already commenced. The project is being funded by the Asian Development Bank. There is no doubt that the construction of a flyover in certain locations is advantageous and does help in quick transportation. There are many cities in the world where the flyovers are constructed in the form of a clover leaf for ease of traffic. Usually such flyovers are constructed in spots where there are no congested built up areas or these are planned in such a way that the least disturbance is caused to the population of the area. The aim is to help the population and make their life easier rather than cause them immense dislocation. There are many issues involved. The environment, the heritage characters of a town or city and above everything else the speed of construction. In case an alternative is available, one would definitely like to consider it before going for an overhead road. Normally, one would give maximum consideration to the ease and convenience of the local inhabitants. However, in our case everything is judged through the easiest escape route as well as by the amount of money one can make through these massive projects! Additionally, things are planned more for the convenience of “tourists” and VIPs than for the local inhabitants. In the instant case, it is to have a fast track to the airport. No doubt, the airport is used by all but there could be many alternatives to have a through way to the facility. One would not mind all the temporary dislocations if the end result was ensuring good traffic circulation in the shortest possible time. This is dependent on the thorough study of the volume of traffic and its circulation keeping in view the principles of traffic engineering as also the speed and quality of construction. In a number of places in the Middle East especially in the Gulf countries the construction of roads and multi-storey buildings is undertaken by resourceful and reputed international companies. The projects are completed well in time and are of the highest quality. In a number of places, one has seen the temporary diversions made for allowing construction of flyovers to be of a better standard than our national highways! The best example of the fastest and the best quality work in the Middle East is the expansion of Makkah and Madina complexes. Should we have similar global construction agencies undertaking the work on high speed with their ample resources and expertise, one would not mind a dozen flyovers in Srinagar. However, the past experience of a flyover on the bye-pass road has shown that we may be in for dislocation for at least 20 years or so! One wishes that the ADB instead of providing funds would straightaway allot the work to a reputed global construction company with a heavy penalty clause for delay and lack of quality! Similar is the situation with traffic lights. These were earlier installed on a number of crossings but soon became defunct and remained as decoration pieces. One hopes that the new initiative is more effective? All the new initiatives and innovations are welcome. These things are meant to ease the situation of traffic in the city of Srinagar. Apart from the city of Srinagar, there are many other bottle necks for smooth flow of traffic on the national highway and other places in the valley. Before one goes for flyovers and traffic lights, it is essential to examine the other basic causes for the mess we are presently in. It is reported that in 1947 there were less than a 100 vehicles in the entire valley. Now, the number is almost a million. The city of Srinagar alone has almost a quarter million! The first question is whether all these vehicles are being driven by trained drivers fully conscious of the basic rules of traffic? Not at all. The easiest thing in Srinagar is a driving licence. It can even be delivered to you at your home for a price regardless of the fact whether you have ever driven a vehicle or not. It does not matter whether you are a major or a minor. It does not matter whether you are colour blind or not. There are additionally a host of fake licences circulating everywhere. Apart from this no one ever bothers to know whether your vehicle is fit to be driven. Some of the heavy vehicles belch diesel fumes in plenty everywhere and no one seems to bother. Thus the first requirement of improving traffic circulation is changing the attitude of the people.At the moment there is free for all. A number of friends and relatives living abroad prefer to travel in a chauffeur driven car than drive their own cars in the crazy traffic of Kashmir. Majority of the people here are absolutely unawareof the road discipline and rules. Main road, side road, fast lane, slow lane, right of way, zebra crossing, road dividers and so on are Greek to most of the drivers here. People are used to make a turnaround in the middle of a highway or a busy road regardless of what happens to other drivers. The road dividers have so many cuts that a driver has a choice of turning round at any place he desires to do so. On one hand is the total disregard by the people of these most important basic norms of driving while as on the other hand there is virtually no enforcement of the same. The only enforcement visible these days is lifting away of the vehicles parked in wrong places. The worst violators of all the norms are the bus drivers, both the minibuses and the bigger buses. They stop anywhere. In the middle of the road, on a curve, uphill or downhill to drop and pick up passengers. They hardly stop at the designated bus stops. Moreover, they race each other to pick up passengers. They are not only hazardous but the real originators of the worst traffic jams. One hardly sees a policeman challenging them in violating these road rules. Somehow, they seem to be confident that no one is going to challenge them. Everyone knows the reasons for that! They seem to have “bought” their “special” rights on the road! Next are the VIPs with their red lights, sirens and escorts. They too do not honour the rules. Their armed escorts find a way for them to overtake everyone. For VVIPS, the road is kept clear well before their arrival. One can see all the traffic policemen with hand held wireless sets monitoring their movement. That seems their most important job. However, they seem to be helpless when the soldiers block the road for the movement of their convoys. One has seen many a ministers in flag cars turn back from an army road block! Sometimes it is really pathetic when one sees VIPs violating all traffic norms and rushing ahead while ambulances are stuck in the middle of a traffic jam! It might be a good idea to handover the traffic management to the army or paramilitary as these days with the decline in militancy related incidents they have plenty of time at their disposal. Moreover, with AFSPA remaining in place they are more powerful than the local policemen! In any case, before we go full speed with our new initiatives and innovations, we need to do something about the attitude of the people. Firstly, they have to be made fully aware of these basic rules and then there has to be strict enforcement of the same on the ground. For awareness one can use the electronic media. Awareness could also be made through various educational institutions. One can even appeal for disseminating the same in the religious gatherings. Will someone please take the initiative in that regard? That will definitely improve the situation than umpteen numbers of flyovers and traffic lights! Feedback at

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