The Times of India, October 12, 2009

After crores have been and are still being spent on flyovers, experts feel it is time to dismantle them and adopt more cost-effective and intelligent solutions to transportation problems.

“From road-engineering to transport policy, there has to be a shift from a personalised transport system to a modern, efficient and comfortable mass transit system with greater impetus on pedestrians’ safety,” was the collective view at the symposium on traffic calming strategies to improve pedestrian safety’ organised by Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS).

“In the last 20 years, not a single flyover has been built across Europe. In fact, European countries have developed a policy of gradually getting rid of flyovers. This has helped Europe decongest cities one after another, with a drastic reduction in the number of fatal accidents. In fact, a good bus rapid transit system (BRTS) offers all solutions to complex transportation problems,” said internationally acclaimed transportation expert, Prof. Dinesh Mohan. “Flyovers are used by cars only. Less than 10% of Kolkatans are car-users. How can one spend 80% of the transport budget for 10% of the population. It is undemocratic, he added.

“Flyovers have a big advantage they are a visible sign of development. But efficacy of these flyovers is questionable. Five years after it was built, the state government is thinking of adding a ramp to the 2-km AJC Bose Road flyover. This shows that the flyover is an example of inadequate planning,” said Union minister of state for urban development, Saugata Roy.

He said his ministry would emphasise pedestrian safety. “We need wider sidewalks. The road engineering should be in complete harmony with the growth of population. Since a majority of road users are pedestrians, sidewalks have to be wider,” Roy added. Civil engineering experts also admitted that their academic focus was completely on the construction of carriageway, not sidewalks. “Now we are making amends,” said Prof. Sudip Roy.

Even additional chief secretary (transport) Sumantra Chowdhury admitted: “Our policy centres around vehicular movement. We never thought of pedestrians. The policy must change.”

Additional commissioner (I) K Hari Rajan said: “Vehicle manufacturers should also take the onus of road-users’ safety. What is the point of manufacturing SUVs with 150-200 kmph speed when it should never go beyond 60 kmph?”

CUTS has initiated a programme on traffic calming in India,’ with a field studies at seven sites in Jaipur. The Indo-Swedish collaborative project in Jaipur identified most feasible measures at seven accident-prone sites in Jaipur, which ranked third in the country in terms of road accidents. The study was based on the conflict technique primarily focused on manual and video recordings near accidents between two road users. The results of the study highlight the plight of pedestrians.

“Dearth of pedestrian safeguards, absence of pedestrian facilities, lack of channelisation, unmarked space at intersections, ineffective compliance with speed and other traffic rules, improper locations of speed breakers and inappropriate design were found to be factors behind fatal accidents,” said a CUTS official.

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