Sunday, May 21, 2017

Smart City Or Accidents City?

“I do take pride in saying that in spite of being in public life for so long, there is not a single case against me, not even for wrongly parking a scooter or driving on the wrong side”… Narendra Modi.

No need to introduce the author of the quote as our Hon Prime Minister is known for many good things & the above quote told us one more aspect of his life i.e. discipline. Well, he can dare to say that he has not even once broke a traffic rule, though in last twenty years I wonder how many times he would have required to drive yet not many in rest of some 120 crore population of his country can be so confident about following traffic rules in their respective cities! May it be Delhi or Pune or my small town named Khamgaon in Vidarbha, two things of we the Indians are same all over the country; they are, our love for the game of cricket & our consistency in not following traffic rules of any sort! I am not sure about exact statistics but nearly one lac of people lost their life in approximate five lac accidents in a year in this country! This loss of life in road accidents is more than any number of deaths by any reason in our country & then there are lot more disabilities which are worst than actual death which the road accidents causes making a healthy person disable for ever & do mind getting called as “Diyvyanga’ won’t get back your lost hand of foot!

For a while keep away highways & expressways as reasons here are altogether different & most accidents are caused due to drivers mistakes like over speeding or lane cutting. We will focus on city road accidents, let’s take example of our Smart City Pune which always is reactive & never proactive on any civic issue & road safety is also not exception! One car bumped in to group of pedestrians standing on divider at baner road & two got killed & three got injured & entire media to govt system started running around. As usual this running around is to find a scapegoat for the accident & not to find any permanent solution or out of some deep soul searching. If any of you has ever travelled via baner road & remembers this particular spot where the said accident has happened, then you can imagine who is at fault! Before we touch the subject sharing a letter which I have sent to Hon PMC Commissioner exactly nine months before this accident & it’s about road condition as well traffic scene at Baner road. I have copied this mail to many of the govt agencies & had this been taken any cognizance then those lives might has been saved as well I would have saved from writing another mail regarding the same subject to Hon Police Commissioner of Pune! So please lets go through my those two emails as it will give you fair idea of traffic scene as well road safety in Pune. The first mail to PMC Comm. as well road dept has been written out of frustration while I got stuck in traffic at baner road for nearly two hours!

11 7 16

To Hon Comm. PMC & Road Dept Officers,

I travel every day from baner road & have done so at every hour of the day, following are my observations… sharing few of suggestions, some of which may look like crazy but so is the traffic scene there :)

Let’s visit in private vehicle at your leisure time just to have an experience as a routine traveler on this road...

1. First the road width shown in DP in itself is too narrow, it should have been at least 200 ft wide road considering it as a gate way to Pune from west side. Tomorrow even the proposed road from Mercedes show-room on highway to hinjawadi IT Park is built then more the baner road will be main connectivity from city to hinjawadi & then the load will be tripled as of now. So make it 200 ft wide wherever possible right from now & make necessary changes in DP for future development.

2. We can plan parallel roads to the same on both sides connecting to service road of bypass to baner road at least till mahabaleshwar hotel chowk i.e. till Symentec. We can plan a road across hill from pan card club & connect it to baner pashan link road parallel to ramnadi, so it will reduce load on baner road right from sadananad hotel.

3. Presently all the buildings along baner road use their front margin for the occupants commercial use, remove every structure in front margin & use it for parking. Same is true regarding the parking spaces shown in these buildings which are being used for other purposes. Restrict any new hotel/ restaurant permissions along the baner road, fronting directly on the road as they are main traffic hurdles. Even think of revoking existing restaurants/eateries license after checking their parking arrangements! (Just a wild thought)

4. Major issue is diagonal parking along baner road’s both side & then vehicles double parking. Make it pay & park at heavy rate at all hours of the day; it is a must keeping in mind importance of this gate way of the city. As well use full time police/traffic warden team always mobile in the stretch from sadanand to national society chowk. Create public parking lots at regular intervals along the lands adjoining baner roads, which are still vacant, make immediate changes in DP right now for this.

5. Try to divert as many vehicles we can from pashan exit at bypass towards university & destinations ahead; for that either make toll on baner road or use Delhi idea, odd -even numbers using baner road & pashan road respectively for all days of week, going towards city center. Promote kiwale BRT terminal route outlet for vehicles coming from Mumbai by expressway or talegaon chakan towards city center as many even doesn’t know such option is available.

6. Remove every puncture /crossing in the present dividers, so allowing U turns or pedestrian crossing only at signals & develop parallel road from signal to signal lengths on both sides. For that make permanent dividers & with flower beds, as it is right now there are no green cover all along or in between on baner road making it extreme dry & heat island!

7. Think of a full length fly over from sadanand to university chowk or mahabaleshwar hotel chowk, like eastern free way from Chembur to Dmelo road in Mumbai, but that’s too long term solution, though we need to think of long term also!

8. Needless to say increase bus frequency with good quality buses running from university circle to hinjawadi, & for that build underground parking lot for commuters’ right at any govt land near university circle, we can think of rural police open grounds for this.

Thanks, will share more, happy to assist! 

Sanjay Deshpande 

*Below is email I wrote to Hon Police Commissioner after the baner accident happen in April 17!

20 4 17

Dear CP madam & jt cp sir,Pune Police

I have seen that clip too & nearly 10 vehicle seen crossing that spot in same speed before this vehicle. I myself walks daily on paud road or baner road & it’s impossible to cross the road such is the speed of all vehicles, even at signals if there is no police vehicles doesn’t stops at red especially PMT buses or private buses. Now as a civil engineer & experience in urban planning let me put clearly that dividers are not meant for standing on them even while crossing but dividers are meant to avoid such accidents fatality i.e. when a vehicle lost control then to restrict it going in opposite lane & causing more damage; refer any accident on express way!! It’s unfortunate that in this case the poor family got victim as they took refuge of divider (I too have done it in past); I am well familiar with the spot & there the road turns on slope, here there must have been speed breakers before vehicles approach that spot but neither speed breaker nor warning boards are present! 

Every such major road like baner road, paud road or karve road, fc road or ganeshkhind road or any main road in city, there must be ample & safe pedestrian crossings in the form of under-pass or over-bridge & every level road crossing has to have signals controlling vehicles, all of which is absent at this spot & there are thousands of such spots in city which every day kills pedestrians & two wheeler's! PMC should undertake survey of every such spot along with traffic branch & the report has to be published along with action plan.

Then there is issue of literally no parking provision for any of commercial establishments on all the main roads of the city which leads to narrow the road drive section on these roads. PMC has to undertake survey of every single building along all the main roads & its parking provisions as well present use of the same & demolish every encroachment done in parking & see that roads are free from illegal parked vehicles.

If you refer the majority accidents took place near pmt bus stops as people get down from bus & the crossing or signal are way long from the bus stop so they tend to cross the road in mid way. First the bus stops must be near to chowk & second every divider has to be of such height or design that neither pedestrian nor animals like stray dogs should cross it! As there has been incidences stray dogs running in between & causing accidents especially those of the two wheeler riders.

One more thing is road cutting as well poor quality road work or digging which makes mostly the two wheelers get slip-down; most simple example is leaving edges of concrete road or tar road unprotected as well chamber covers which are not in level with the road surface.

All these things slows down the speed of vehicles & when people get open stretch of the road they tend to speed up, is the common human tendency. So what we need is hassle free safe driving as traffic police is to control the traffic not to look for such issues which actually increases their work load!

I think police dept should form a team to study lacuna in infrastructure essential for good traffic management & write all these to PMC as well UD, as this is scene in every city where local body's poor planning leads to accidents actually. Happy to assist for same!

Sanjay Deshpande

-- -----

Now after you have gone through both above emails, let me ask you a question, in Pune city alone nearly four hundred people ( read citizens) dies per year & triple number of this figure get severely injured in road accidents, clearly there is no road safety at all in this city. This statistics also makes this smart city as most road accident prone city in the country, I presume; so who is responsible for this situation? Whenever we think of a city roads or traffic first come the proper planning & we in Pune have failed to provide roads with enough width which will accommodate the ever growing numbers of vehicles. Then is the department which is supposedly to build these roads & keep them in proper condition as here I remember to read the statements by officers saying “there is no policy about speed breakers or about road dividers”! Well then who is supposed to make such policy is what a common man like me will ask! And joke is now the very same dept is changing road dividers of the accident spot at baner road, by which policy? Well, we don’t ask such questions in this country!  Same is with the height of barricades or guard rail at fly over as that also is common accident cause, two wheeler riders falling down from the fly-over when the bike collides with the barricades; seems that side-rail policy is also not clear in PMC! Then let’s see who is responsible for keeping all these roads in drivable condition, as right from sudden ongoing road excavation without any warning boards to drainage chamber covers way above road surface level, every possible hurdle is there on our roads. And to avoid these obstacles two wheeler riders often change the course at eleventh moment resulting collision with divider or poor pedestrians who are the worst victim of any road mishap! Conditions of footpaths is so worst that even while walking on them also can cause you topple down thus many prefers to walk on road & then falling prey to the errand drivers! Then comes the dept which is supposed to control the use of shown parking places in the thousands of buildings along all these roads. All these parking places in the commercial buildings are being used for every other purpose than parking & by virtue of which all the vehicles related to these building gets parked on adjoining roads, chocking the existing road width. Lastly come the traffic police dept whose job is actually getting difficult as all above things are not in place & then every person on road is frustrated along with the traffic police, resulting numbers of incidences of exchange of heated arguments of commuters & police; this way entire cities mental health gets damaged, which by me is biggest loss due to poor road safety conditions as well traffic management of the city!

And when every agency is busy on pointing figure on each other about road condition & accidents then on other side is we the society! Here we are equally at blame as we are most useless bunch of animals (I beg a pardon as animals also are way ahead of us in discipline) when it comes to following traffic rules! We think ours is only vehicle on the road & like the WWE show on TV i.e. wrestling mania where no rule is there but only to kill the opponent is the target, we behave same way on roads! For us signals exists only if there is a policemen standing alongside (PMPML busses ranks first on this scale) & we don’t understand simple signs like one way! Most accidents have been caused by people entering in wrong way in one way & jumping signals, about which no system can do anything! We have to be fined for not wearing helmet that shows our level of carelessness regarding road safety. Especially when every other safety factor is against us on roads then at least we can secure ourselves by wearing helmet, even this much we can’t understand, what are we made of, I can’t even imagine! On the top of it we have advertises of the two wheelers or four wheelers saying zero to hundred km/hr in some ten seconds! What we want to achieve by speeding in such way on roads like ours is the question the auto manufacturers should ask to themselves! And even the pedestrians, who keep crossing roads anywhere at their will, should think to save few minutes we are risking our entire life by doing so! What even thousands of CC TVs can make the difference if millions have not been following any traffic rule; civic sense is most rare thing in this country is what I conclude to myself looking at all above scene around!

The solutions are very simple if all the concerned agencies first understand their responsibility towards road accidents as mentioned above in my mails to the authorities & behave as well act considering every pedestrian or two wheeler rider can be their own brother or son or sister then they will realize the seriousness of the job they have at hand. Take one road like baner road & make every agency associated with road safety on above aspects to perform & make them accountable. Had this been USA then I am sure the courts as well police would have made local governing body also party to road accident considering it as crime! Running of year long awareness campaign is another thing which can be taken with the help of NGO’s. Media also need to stand up & dedicate their some space for ever to this aspect & not just run the accident stories after some mishap happens. Make road safety a part of education right from school to college studies as it’s the younger lives which are lost mostly in accidents. Strengthen & systemize public transport to reduce vehicular load from the roads as however bigger roads we build or increase numbers of traffic police if the vehicles keeps on pouring on the roads then accidents will keep happening! A Smart City is not counted by just how many apps it has for the services provided to the citizens but how it makes people feel safe on its roads & I think on that scale we are fast travelling to the tag of Dumb City & unless each of us don’t act then soon we will surely get the tag of Dead City too!  

Sanjay Deshpande 

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