Traffic congestion has been a global urban phenomenon and with more vehicles hitting the city roads each year, the problem is more likely to get worse. It could have been otherwise if the mitigating measures were not prohibitively costly and were amenable to quick urban engineering solutions. The problem therefore would most likely linger on. While urban transport mix in developed countries is relatively simple, India’s urban transport scenario continues to be much more complex, particularly in smaller cities.
A city like Bhubaneswar, for example, has to address the demands on the city roads of a large number of users. Many of them view the openness of the roads suitable to transact business and for social get together; while animals prefer to use the roads for rest and leisurely walk. Cattle love ruminating on city roads.
How much time does a driver spend in a year waiting for traffic? In a city like Moscow, reportedly a driver spent 210 hours a year. In a city like Bangalore my guess is it could be about one and half times more. Being a much smaller city, Bhubaneswar has been facing the problem of slow traffic; also, traffic hold ups for quite some time. While some experts would pitch for more roads, more flyovers and a mass rapid transit system like heavy rail, metro, subway, tube, or underground for solution, these are not feasible within a short time. There is the issue of availability of resources as well. Mass rapid transit system may not even be financially viable. We, therefore, need to adopt more pragmatic and feasible alternatives.
Road blocks need to be addressed. There are too many of them. Street hawking has assumed menacing proportions. Much of the road space has been used for shopping and ancillary activities. Consequently, many existing roads now offer much less space for traffic to move.
As a first step, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) needs to make certain important roads free from roadside shopping cabins and carts. The decision needs to be rigorously enforced and violations must attract heavy penalty. The city administration must ensure a zero tolerance arrangement for stray cattle. Offending animals are to be presumed to be without owners and need to be swiftly confiscated, taken to Government Farm and sold off in public auction.
There are too many lanes meeting Main Roads. These intersections need rationalization immediately and many could be closed. This exercise would facilitate smooth flow of traffic to some extent.
Number of bikes has increased exponentially. They too contribute to slowing down of traffic as most bikers seem to love their freedom and meander merrily on roads. Many prefer to wait on the left side of the road detaining the left bound traffic and as soon as the traffic light turns green, these swiftly turn right and speed away. This type of acrobatics must stop. There is urgency in having dedicated bike tracks and transgressions from the tracks must be penalized. Some road cuts for convenience of a vehicle to take a “U” turn seem to act as bottlenecks and need to be widened to facilitate turning of vehicles without impacting the traffic flow.
Existing practice of seamless conversion of roadside buildings to commercial establishments is another area that has accentuated traffic congestion. These establishments attract a large number of vehicles which are parked on the roads and obstruct traffic. A well planned relocation drive must be initiated so that commercial establishments get located in a more orderly manner in designated zones, keeping arterial roads free for traffic to move faster. Similar to how it is for stray animals, zero tolerance must be ensured towards unauthorized parking of vehicles on roads.
These measures are feasible and would make the Capital City look cleaner, healthier, and more liveable. The city would look much more attractive for tourists and investors. All we must do is resist the temptation of making the entire city a disorganized Bazaar.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)