For cars to fly over Agara and Iblur

Some questions, comments and suggestions on two grade separator projects at the Agara and Iblur junctions in south-east portion of Bengaluru's Outer Ring Road, with some alternative traffic flow options.

The BDA is in the process of building two flyovers on the Outer Ring road near the Iblur and Agara junctions in south-east Bengaluru as part of their ‘signal free’ Outer Ring Road project.  This article presents some questions, comments and suggestions regarding both the grade separators, on the basis of the project plans obtained from the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) in response to an RTI request by Citizen Matters.

The flyovers have been described in an earlier article in Citizen Matters.  Two dedicated, access controlled, 11.5 feet wide bus lanes on either side of the central median of the road can be seen in the drawings.  This appears to be an indication that BRTS (Bus Rapid Transport System) lanes will be provided along the entire Outer Ring Road at some point in the future.  Since this will require a major redesign of the road, the BDA should educate the public and seek feedback on future plans.

Iblur Flyover [See map]

Iblur sketch

The Iblur flyover plan (from drawings provided by BDA)

The flyover drawing appears more complete as compared to the Agara flyover drawing.  There is one elevated section at Iblur junction for the traffic coming from Bellandur towards Agara.   A signaling system will be required to control flow of traffic at the intersection. While traffic on the elevated section will flow smoothly towards Agara, another elevated section in the opposite direction would have been useful to minimize the traffic flow that would have to be regulated by the signal.  Since neighbourhoods around Sarjapur Road are developing, traffic along that road can be expected to increase in the future.

The BRTS lanes in the middle of the traffic lane raise the question of pedestrian safety.  Without a clearly marked pedestrian crossing, how will commuters cross over to and from the bus stops?  On one side, the pedestrians will have to negotiate traffic coming from Silk Board to reach the bus stop.  What will happen if a bus arrives at the stop while the pedestrian is across the road and he dashes across the road, at an unsafe curve?

The BRTS bus stops are right at the junction with no space for overtaking within the lane. Since buses have to stop at both the signal as well as the stop, there is plenty of possibility for unnecessary delays.  Consider the following scenarios: scenario (1)  A bus approaching in the BRTS lane from Agara scheduled to turn towards Sarjapur at the intersection.  If there is a red light, the bus would be unable to make the turn and block the BRTS lane until clearance is available. Scenario (2) A bus headed towards Marathahalli coming from Agara side would stop at the bus stop right after the intersection.  If a few buses arrive in quick succession, they would back up traffic in the lane, in effect wasting precious time while the signal is green, making non optimum use of the signal.

•    How do customers access the small shops and businesses at the north-side service lane near the Iblur junction?

Iblur alternatives

Alternative design for the Iblur junction. Diagram: Sanjay Vijayaraghavan.

Another area of concern is the width of the road as traffic approaches Iblur junction from Agara.  There are several small commercial establishments currently by the side of the service lane.  Once the expansion of the road is complete as per plan, it appears that these shops will be separated from the ring road by a paltry 1 meter (3 feet) wide covered drain with almost no provision for parking or proper access to their place of business.  The drain cover is also a token gesture for pedestrians to practice tight rope walking while passing through that stretch.  The BDA will do well to consider maintaining a service lane at this location and reducing the number of lanes for ring road traffic to three from four.

•    How will Sobha and Sun City residents access their apartments?

Other questions without clear answers include the traffic flow arrangements for residents of the Sobha and Sun City complex, particularly to merge into the ring road towards Agara.  Without clear definition and a plan in place, this will be a spot where drivers may try various shortcut options and cause un-necessary traffic disturbances.  The authorities could also consider adding a traffic island as roughly illustrated in the drawing below to guide traffic and improve lane discipline at the junction.

Agara Flyover [See map]

Agara ketch

Agara flyover plan, from drawings provided by BDA.

The Agara junction drawings seems rather low on detail.  It also appeared that another drawing as well as a report was available which was not provided by BDA as part of the RTI request.  It appears that there will be two 3-lane flyovers for through traffic on the ring road in each direction. Between the flyovers are two bus lanes at the ground level.

Similar questions as raised in the Iblur plan continue to linger with this design as well.  Despite the elevated flyover, there are multiple streams of traffic under the flyover and a lack of clarity on smooth operation of the bus lane traffic with potential turns, merging, signals and so on.

Where are the bus stops?

There are no bus stop locations indicated in the drawings and neither is a clear pedestrian crossing location.  There does not appear to be any provisions for a wide footpath.  Since a major residential layout abuts this intersection, it is common to see a large crowd waiting for buses.  The only footpath indicated in the available drawing is a 1 meter wide drain cover.

Where is the space for pedestrians?

There are several commercial establishments on the HSR side towards silkboard which sit on the current service road.  It appears from the drawing that once the flyover is complete, the service lane will turn into a conduit for HSR traffic to merge into the ring road towards silkboard.  Once again, it is not clear if there will be any roadside parking or pedestrian space available for these shops and other commercial activity.  It is a similar story on the other side towards Iblur.  The service lane looks due to disappear and instead some of the apartment complexes and commercial centers are going to find themselves right on the ring road with non-existent pedestrian and roadside parking facility.

The tree felling

Another point to note is that to maintain the BRTS architecture, the road will have to be widened all the way to Iblur, with some old and magnificent rain trees having to be cut and cleared.

Signals are not really eliminated

Finally, the intersection of the two outlets from HSR layout – 24th main as well as 27th main are about 150 meters apart.  Traffic cutting across to turn towards Iblur will either need signals or will result in vehicles trying to cut across and merge into the road, playing havoc with oncoming traffic.  As is also clear, traffic from 24th main will approach the intersection at an oblique angle.  The drawing has no indication on the type of traffic management or geometrical design that will be used at this intersection.

Even as this article is being written, the construction of the flyovers is proceeding fast and trees are being felled.  It is unfortunate that these structures are being constructed without a proper process of consultation and feedback from the general public.  This article is an attempt to bring some issues to the attention of the BDA. Earlier, traffic expert Prof. M N Sreehari had told Citizen Matters that public consultation leads to confusion. But a well planned engagement allows the designers to factor the user needs into their design.

These designs also appear to incorporate a Bus Rapid Transit Lane along the ring road.  This is a fundamental architectural change to the entire ring road which has serious implications throughout the road.  Will the BDA kindly discuss details of the BRTS plans as well as with the citizens of Bangalore so that they can provide feedback and ideas? Once again, good designers will learn how to cut through the confusion of public feedback and extract useful feedback that helps lead to a better design.

Note: The opinions in this article are that of the author alone.  Additional discussion on this topic is available here.

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