Infrastructure – Thoughts on Traffic Problems in Bangalore

By | April 16, 2008

I really like the Blogathon Badge which you can find on the right side pane of my bolg. I am an optimist and I look at solving problems rather than running away from them. I am really meaning what I am writing here 🙂 My favorite button is the middle one – “Maximize” and try to get an optimistic view of the concern. At times when I don’t get answers to my question, I use the first one – “Minimize” and keep the thought process running somewhere in my mind and at one point of time, will get a solution. The last is always disabled for me….

Well, coming to the topic I choose to write for blogathon, is one of my favorite and what we see everyday.

The Problem

How do you want to look at it? As a problem or a defect or bug? Is there a difference? Yes, there is definitely a huge difference between each of the words I used above.

Problem – According to Dictionary.com; any question or matter involving doubt, uncertainty, or difficulty

Bug – According to Dictionary.com; any insect or insectlike invertebrate

Defect – According to Dictionary.com; a shortcoming, fault, or imperfection

Now, I will also present a technology perspective of Bug and Defect 🙂

Bug – An unexpected error thrown by any application due to malfunctioning of the program

Defect – An error thrown by any application due to lack of understanding/mis-understanding of the requirement.

So, under which category should we have our “traffic problem”?

In my humble opinion, I would categorize this under Bug and Defect. Why?

It is a bug because of unexpected growth in the economy which led to the growth in the city.

It is a defect because the town/city planning council (simply put the government body) could not understand the requirement and could not plan for a good algorithm which would look into the future and address the problem.

My View

Almost every city/town in India and other countries in the world are facing the similar problems. Are everyone able to solve this instantaneously? I am quite sure it is a “No”. When we try to compare ourselves to the cities/towns we visit (please include international areas too), we are biased. This is because most of the time we visit either the developed or the so-called developing countries. I am sure, you, as my reader, would have visited a third-world country too…

There are many ways to look at the situation, however, I would want to present only my view with due respects to all.

Yes, Bangalore has really grown 100 folds in the last 5-7 years. Our’s is not the only city/town, but across the globe many countries, cities and towns have grown in the last 5-7 years. Once the garden city and a honey-moon destination (I still remember my brother coming to Bangalore for his honey-moon after wedding in July 1988 and the pictures he has taken) is now the Silicon valley of the East.

Before I begin to pen down my thoughts, for a basic understanding, let us look at some statistics:

The vehicle population in Bangalore has grown more than 20 times in the last 27 years and more than 100% in the last 7 Years. In 1980, Bangalore had 1,75,325 vehicles and by 2005 the city had 22,72,239 vehicles. Today, we have more than 26,00,000 vehicles on roads and adding more than 200 vehicles every day. If you look at the Traffic Police strength, we have close to 2,900 Policemen/Policewomen, in which close to 100 are at the top 3 layers. Population of Bangalore as on date is 62,00,000 (Six million, two hundred thousand). Simple mathematics shows that we have one traffic policeman for every 2,138 people. Wow! This is an amazing number. Why did I bring all these data points? Not to pin point the aspect that we are less on the police man, but to point out there are many things what we can do.

I might not be comparing apples to apples, but just look at the statistics of Beijing. Beijing has more than 33, 50,000 vehicles (a mere 6 Laks more than Bangalore) out of which 20,00,000 are cars. Also, the city adds more than 1,300 vehicles every day on road. By the time Olympics start, the vehicle population is projected to grow up too. So, how is the city managing its traffic problem/defect/bug? Interestingly, the Government is planning to ban few vehicles on the road during the Olympics and also pay the owners some compensation based on their daily use of the vehicle.

Coming to our very own Bangalore, here are the few major aspects which I feel we need to look at from citizen’s perspective:

  1. Ownership while driving
  2. Obeying traffic rules
  3. Drivers Education
  4. Signal Planning

Let me explain a bit more in detail as to what I think about each of the points above. Remember, out of the 4 points I have laid out, 3 come back to us (We, the people) and 1 goes to the Government. This is because, when we point finger at others, there are 4 fingers pointing towards us…remember?

Ownership while driving – Most of us, including me, do not think of others while we drive. “I have to reach, I have to get the right of way, I have to go first”, these are the most common thoughts we have. If we all think about “I” who is thinking of “We”? I am sure, there are quite a few out there who think about “We”, else we would not be here today, where we are 🙂 The first important thing is for each of us to think twice before you make the move while we drive. This is not as easy as I write, but needs a lot of involvement from each of us and with sincerity too. All of us have work and all of us have to go. But, by simply having the thought process imbibed in us, we can make a lot of change. So, let us begin the change with ourselves. Let us from today, drive with due respect to others on the road.

Obeying Traffic Rules – Everyone of us have a license, but how many did actually take the complete test for obtaining the license? I bet not more than 5% of us. When I say complete, I mean the actual requirements to obtain a license. How many on the road do you think understand that when there is a yellow line, you need to stop-look-proceed? Or how many of us understand that it is mandatory to stop at “zebra” crossing? Well, as my reader, you might know, but I bet there are many who do not know. Did you every take a driving class with any motor school? If so, Do you remember any instance where the instructor refused to let you start the vehicle before explaining the rules of the road, the ABC system of the vehicle and last but not the least, if you are learning a four-wheeler, wearing a seat belt?

Well, this turns back to education. How do we educate people? This is a very big question to answer in one small line, but one probable solution is having traffic lessons organized at every institution / organizations. I know quite a few organizations which changed the office timings to avoid traffic, but I do not know any organization which worked with the police to organize for traffic lessons.

Another idea I have is to voluntarily work with Driving schools in the city and organize for traffic awareness sessions for the “trainers”. This would mean that the trainer need to understand the rules of the road and take a test to become a certified trainer. This is like “train the trainer”. Instead of waiting for the Government to support this initiative, if there is any NGO who can initiate this and work in collaboration with the Police and Government, this would be highly beneficial.

Drivers Education – We need to have education for Drivers. Just think for a second, if you have a driver for your car, how many times did you appraise him when he broke a signal or went in the wrong way? I see many educated people who have drivers (when I see anyone in a car, I assume they are educated) and the driver jumps a signal or goes in a wrong way and the owner is sitting in the back seat either reading / chatting / sleeping. If as the owner, you have any time corrected a mistake, the driver will not take the courage to make a mistake (remember, he is your employee and for sure he would take your words seriously).

Drivers also include auto drivers. You would agree with me when I say that auto’s are one of the major cause for traffic jams. They squeeze in-between vehicles and block the way. They go in wrong way many times and also drive very rashly. The passenger does not even utter a word. Next time, when you are using an auto, could you please speak to the driver to educate him of the negativities of this behavior? We need to understand that they are stressed out. Driving is their daily job and definitely it is a stressful one. So, being calm and polite to him/her would be definitely beneficial. Next time when you are in an auto, please speak to the driver if you can.

The next set of most irresponsible drivers are the bus drivers (BMTC/Private). I really have no clue as to why they need to squeeze into small spaces on road while they can just wait and go. Again, we will need to understand that driving all days for making livelihood is really stressful, considering their schedules. However, BMTC/Private bus operators do need to understand that stressed drivers make life hell for themselves and to others. I think a bonus system (any kind) to drivers would make them more delightful and driving pleasure.

The last but not the least set of drivers (predominantly found in bigger cities like Bangalore) are the cab/taxi drivers. Have you ever noticed that the regular cab drivers (Call Taxi’s) are much more better at driving than the cab drivers who ferry employees? The reason is very simple, the cab company gets paid more if they ferry more people. Hence, they encourage their drivers to get more trips done and also the drivers are paid more (bonus) if they get more business. Who is responsible for this? Of course, organizations who employ cab companies for ferrying employees. I strongly recommend that organizations do not accept any clause of this kind in their agreements and also, encourage cab companies on performance basis. I regularly see many cab drivers ferrying employees, who drive crazy on road. Adding to this, the passengers in the car are employees of organizations like you and me and they do not utter a word to the driver when he gets cranky on road. For them, going home faster is more important than their safety. If these passengers be adamant with drivers, then we can address this in a better way. I do agree that the “How am I driving?” stickers behind the vehicle have added value, but if the passengers speak to the drivers to follow traffic rules, the effect would be much better.

Signal Planning – This is one key area of concentration for the Government. Having bus stops before or after a signal is the worst thing which can happen. On a regular basis I notice one such area (Lumbini Garden signal near Hebbal flyover). The bus stop is just after the signal and all buses (minimum 2 per signal) stop just immediately after the signal and jam the junction. The vehicles behind get clogged and adds to frustration.

I can take another example of Nagawara and Kammanahalli signals. These two signals are not more than 2 KM apart, but there is no synchronization at all. Signal synchronization and automated signaling helps a lot while planning for traffic at main areas.

Suggestion – Traffic Ombudsman

This is quite a different and unique idea what I have. According to Dictionary.com, an ombudsman is a person who investigates and attempts to resolve complaints and problems, as between employees and an employer or between students and a university.

In the context where I am speaking, I would request you to remove the second part of the definition. My suggestion is that we have Traffic ombudsman who are general public. The Traffic department can have their own criteria to identify an ombudsman, but what happens here is that there would be more people who can actually have the power to address an issue/concern. As an example, let me say that I am interested in contributing to solving traffic problems and I become an Traffic Ombudsman. Now, I have an identity to stop someone who is not adhering to the rules of the road and educate the person. In our place, most of the times you encounter a question – “Who are you?”. When we are officially identified as volunteers to help, we might be heard. I am very excited about this idea and I am sure it will work. I am sure there will be many people like me who would want to volunteer and help 🙂 What do you think?

Little tips to fellow drivers/travelers like me

These are what I do and I find them very helpful:

  • While driving in a car – switch on the music system and have your A/C running. This adds a lot to your freshness and keeps your mind calm.
  • If you are on a two-wheeler, do not cruise in-between vehicles, leave space for others.
  • If you are on a two-wheeler, stick to the left lane. Accept that there are other vehicles which can go at a higher speed than you.
  • Try to keep yourself to the left if you are driving slow. This is one thing which really hurts me. I keep seeing many a times, cyclists, two-wheelers and cars who want to go slow, stick to the right most lane and this give a tough time to the behind vehicles.
  • Do not get frustrated while in a traffic jam or if someone is blocking your way. Be calm and the traffic would move on.

These are my thoughts on how I would want to help solve traffic concerns in Bangalore. If I better my thought process, I would keep adding to the post 🙂

11 thoughts on “Infrastructure – Thoughts on Traffic Problems in Bangalore

  1. Thejesh GN

    While driving in a car – switch on the music system and have your A/C running. This adds a lot to your freshness and keeps your mind calm.

    100% correct.
    Please don’t honk specially when you are stuck in traffic jam. It doesn’t help.
    Honking for no reason confuses the driver ahead of you. Sometimes he might commit a mistake like taking a turn without checking in urgency.

  2. Pingback: Blogathon India : Infrastructure - Thoughts on Traffic Problems in Bangalore by Hari Nath

  3. Vee

    loved the post! but I’m doubtful whether the concept of ‘Traffic Ombudsman’ will work as expected or not – people might get into this role for their own reasons (selfish or fun related).

  4. santhi

    Quite comprehensively analysed, I must say….Just let’s hope we can adopt these steps, atleast some of them immediately….

  5. Kunal

    Superb post! Nicely analyzed the problems.

    I agree 95% ( or more ) people do not realize that they are creating problems and pointing fingers to others.

    I get irritated when people honks continuously while crossing the signal. Damn! they can’t even wait for few seconds.

    We are the problem and we have to fix ourselves!

  6. Pingback: Bangalore traffic police got a wake up call? » Jayant Kumar Gandhi

  7. su

    Hari ..well said
    every day i drive quite a distance and find all that you have penned to be in practice by “us” …i would rather say us as we know at times when we are late / need to hurry to meet our appointment we commit the same mistake ,may be we need to plan in advance or set our biological clock to be in time if we know we have appointment….
    few observations from me
    1) High beam driving … most drivers (majorly used by the cab drivers )drive with high beam in the city and cause a lot of inconvineance to the commuter driving on the other side may be we need to ban this in the city at all times ( while i remember it was banned in MG road in 2003 ..alas its back on track).
    2) Drive in the wrong lane …we observe people who need to take a left drive on a right lane or otherwise and then bump in the other direction which again causes jams this need to be streamlined like chennai ( i find the city has few rules set extreme left two wheelers next buses next 4 wheelers and ensure you are in the right lane when you need to change the direction of your journey).
    but yes it starts from “us” lets do our bit and then educate others..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *