Signalfree corridors: Freedom for some, confinement for the rest?

Policies meant for pedestrians in Bengaluru have themselves been pedestrian in nature. Will the Domlur-Mahadevapura signal-free corridor be an exception?

Residents of the eastern part of Bengaluru would have found it difficult to ignore the omnipresent banners that have sprung up on road dividers, announcing the launch of “signal free corridor road from Domlur to Murugeshpalya.” I want to assess the implications of this project to the city transport’s most neglected users – the pedestrians.

One of the banners on the Old Airport Road announcing the launching of the signal free corridor

The principal-agent problem

At the first glance, projects that solely promise faster moving traffic are illustrative of the classical principal-agent problem in governmental issues. On one side, there is a large section of people in Bengaluru that would want to see road safety prioritized over traffic speed. In the Pedestrian Walkability Index that measures the quality of pedestrian infrastructure, Bengaluru was ranked 12 out of 30 Indian cities and second last amongst 15 Asian cities. On an average, more than one pedestrian die daily on the streets of Bengaluru.

In April 2013, the Karnataka High Court issued notices to the State Government and BBMP seeking better facilities to ensure pedestrian safety. In spite of the deteriorating situation, very little has been done for the humble pedestrian in our city.

On the other hand, BBMP and BTP collectively face the grave problem of traffic congestion and reduced vehicular mobility. As a result, most of the road infrastructure creation (if any) has been focused on increasing the speed of moving traffic, while pedestrians have been seen as obstructers slowing down traffic movement. For example, the Comprehensive Traffic and Transportation Scheme (CTTS) 2007 proposed a massive investment of 46944 crores INR for the transport infrastructure of Bangalore over the next 16 years. The mass transportation strategies rightfully got a lion’s share of 79%. But the pedestrians who would be using these mass transport facilities got a share of 0.6%, which waste even lesser than the funds allocated to parking facilities.

Thus, we have a situation where the priority of a vast section of the people (the principals) is not the same as the priority of the implementing agencies (the agents). A consequence of this problem is that the solutions that arise are sub-optimal and unsatisfactory by nature.

The problem can be tackled if and only if people come together to demand pedestrian safety as a priority in all road infrastructure projects. People from all classes need to make common cause with this issue because regardless of the size of one’s vehicle, every Bangalorean uses the road as a pedestrian for one purpose or the other. Hence, prioritising pedestrian safety will help every single road user in the city.

A promising start

In the case under consideration, a signal free corridor on Old Airport Road was proposed by the Agenda for Bengaluru Infrastructure and Development Task Force (ABIDe). The state cabinet approved the corridor in January 2014. After six months, in July 2014, the work was formally launched.

Coming from a set of urban planning experts, the signal free corridor promises several features for pedestrian safety. For instance, apart from constructing a traffic light-free corridor road from ASC Centre to Hope Farm for faster moving traffic, the proposal also includes remodeling of footpaths, asphalting, street lights, bus bays and construction of medians. If implemented as promised, this construction will be a boon to pedestrians who risk their lives at Marathahalli, Kundalahalli Gate and several other junctions on a daily basis.

It is now up to the people of East Bengaluru to work towards ensuring that all the promises of the pedestrians are fulfilled by BBMP. Historically, signal-free corridor projects worsen the plight of the pedestrians. For example, the signal-free corridor on Outer Ring Road between Marathahalli and Sarajapur is a daily nightmare to cross on foot. It is hence imperative for everyone to come together and ensure that the new project does not repeat these mistakes.

In the long run, there is a need for the creation of a Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) Cell under the BBMP’s authority on the lines of the NMT cell in Pune Municipality with statutory powers to recommend the overall planning and design aspects for issues related to pedestrians. This will be like a pedestrian’s lobby to seek what is rightfully theirs – the right of way.

The way forward

The theory of Induced Traffic states that the more one invests in road infrastructure, the more traffic it attracts. Similarly, the more we invest in pedestrian infrastructure, the more will be the number of people using walking as an element of their commute. Prioritizing pedestrian safety is the only way to ensure that road infrastructure projects don’t lead to freedom for a few at the expense of the humble pedestrian.

Comments:

  1. Radha Chanchani says:

    I’m a resident of Domlur and an urban planner/designer by training. I agree with the point made that the public need to ensure that this project in no way harms pedestrians, cyclists and bus commuters; which such projects often end up doing! I am extremely curious though about how they are planning to accomplish all the listed road improvements. Can the public view these plans? I think this is a necessary first step if citizens are to engage and ensure positive outcomes. What is going to happen to the trees on the roadsides? Thank you and look forward to a response ~ A concerned citizen.

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Similar Story

Effective speed management critical in India to reduce road crash fatalities

Speeding accounts for over 71% of crash-related fatalities on Indian roads. Continuous monitoring and focussed action are a must.

Four hundred and twenty people continue to lose their lives on Indian roads every single day. In 2022, India recorded 4.43 lakh road crashes, resulting in the death of 1.63 lakh people. Vulnerable road-users like pedestrians, bicyclists and two-wheelers riders comprised 67% of the deceased. Road crashes also pose an economic burden, costing the exchequer 3.14% of India’s GDP annually.  These figures underscore the urgent need for effective interventions, aligned with global good practices. Sweden's Vision Zero road safety policy, adopted in 1997, focussed on modifying infrastructure to protect road users from unacceptable levels of risk and led to a…

Similar Story

Many roadblocks to getting a PUC certificate for your vehicle

Under new rule, vehicles owners have to pay heavy fines if they fail to get a pollution test done. But, the system to get a PUC certificate remains flawed.

Recently, there’s been news that the new traffic challan system will mandate a Rs 10,000 penalty on old or new vehicles if owners don't acquire the Pollution Under Control (PUC) certification on time. To tackle expired certificates, the system will use CCTV surveillance to identify non-compliant vehicles and flag them for blacklisting from registration. The rule ultimately has several drawbacks, given the difficulty in acquiring PUC certificates in the first place. The number of PUC centres in Chennai has reduced drastically with only a handful still operational. Only the petrol bunk-owned PUC centres charge the customers based on the tariff…