After living in all the major cities in India and traveling across the length and breadth covering major class A & B towns, I could confidently say that this problem can be solved. We don’t need more road, we just need to fine-tune the ones that we already have. The faster we try to solve this, the better would it become for the future generations. Interestingly, the road network of India is the second largest in the world with a total length of about 4,320,000 kilometers. In fact, the Indian road network consists of 1000 km of expressways, 79,243 km of national highways, 1,31,899 km of state highways, and other major district and rural roads. Well, I am only talking about a portion of this problem though.
The biggest challenge is people (of course, this is no big eureka!), right? But the beauty is that solution to every problem lies in the problem itself J. Think loud, you can solve every big problem in your life, career, society, etc. Yeah? Rings a bell? So, coming back to my statement, the advantage is that people are used to doing things in a certain way and they take things for granted. So, use the very same technique to solve this big problem. Trust me, this works!
Parking: Today, 20-25% of every city road is being used for parking. Take a look around and you would be surprised to realize this. We have taken this for granted, because this has been a tradition for a long time. Now, how do we address this and reclaim that big chunk of the road? We need to change this tradition by educating people. Parking areas can be identified in strategic locations and encourage people to use them more often. Promote organizations that come forward to build MLCPs. Support the local shops & establishments to participant in campaigns and offer them branding options wherever possible. Bring awareness of walking or cycling for shorter distances. Some of the reclaimed road can even be used to build pavement to walk or cycle. It might be a little painful in the beginning, but people will start understanding the importance sooner than later.
Traffic Signal Timing: I find it very funny that the timers at many traffic signals are hardwired, which doesn’t serve the purpose at all. In fact, it beats the whole purpose of having a traffic signal. This happens even in a modern city like Hyderabad. The whole point is to ease the traffic coming from different directions. If you hold them for long without a reason, you are increasing the traffic on one side and also making the public impatient. Signal time should be shorter during non-peak hours so that people feel like using them even if they see lesser traffic on the other side. This technique will save a lot of money by reducing the police staff, reduce the number of accidents as people would start following it religiously and most importantly the traffic is controlled on its own.
Lane Marking: Like how the Parkinson’s Law works on the elasticity of time, I am sure somebody somewhere in the world would have coined a word for this theory too. We try to expand our driving sense to as much as the length of the road. They say people in Mumbai are a lot more disciplined and they really follow lane discipline! Of course yes. How can you move to another lane if you have just one lane? Lol. Just on a lighter note. I agree that traffic is better in Mumbai compared to the rest, but not the best. So the point is, unless you have clear markings, its difficult to explain lane crossing, or lane jumping to many people. Am not too sure about the cost, but its definitely worth it; especially during the peak hours. The Govt. officials can start implementing this at few important roads to begin with.
Bottle Necks: This is my favourite. Like they say, the flow of water in a pipe is equivalent to the bottleneck in the pipe; even if you stop the flow of water in one area, the entire pipe gets chocked. I know that we all know this by heart, mind and soul, but no body likes to solve such things. When Google Maps can know this sitting few thousand miles away, why doesn’t the city traffic police know? Why shouldn’t we use a bit of technology, wherever it is required? It is difficult only if you distance yourself from the problem. But if you wear a lens to solve this, it’s a cakewalk. Firstly, you are dealing with people, so the police staff on field need to have people management skills (yeah, its not just making jilebis in the air). They need to sensitize people more than threatening them. That’s when you get their cooperation and half the problem is solved. Secondly, use technology to communicate with people. Give them options and ask them to use different routes to de-clutter. Trust me, people are smart enough to choose a slightly longer road for a hassle-free ride. As long the Govt. sends recommendations to companies & institutions with guidelines, this can be achieved with little sweat.
State Highways: I don’t want to comment much on the National Highways as they are now a lot better compared to the past. But I definitely would like to comment on the state highways that are in a poor condition. What people need is not a 8-lane smooth road! All they need is drivable roads. It doesn’t matter if it is 2-lane or a 4-lane, as long as it is safe to drive at night, that’s bearable. We are tolerant you know! And I mean it. For example, the state highway from Hyderabad to Warangal is a sham. It is just a 150 KM road connecting the capital city to the next big city in the state. The point I would like to bring to the notice of bureaucrats is that while you have a grand plan of making an 8-lane highway in the next 3-5 years, you need have some basic plan to at least make it drivable for now. Simple things like road reflectors, road dividing marking, yellow marking or automotive lighting on the edges, turn signals, etc. need to be in place before you execute the grand plan. This is the case with many state highways. When we talk about accidents, lets do something about it, rather than just making statements for the sake of news & media. And believe me, it is very cheap, yet very powerful.
I am not denying that bureaucrats haven’t worked in this space to find suitable solutions, but unfortunately they left the execution to the wisdom of their lower ranks and few individuals. There are simple techniques that some of the well maintained cities across the globe do. We can emulate some of it to our benefit. To me, every bureaucrat is a leader and as a leader he or she needs to be part of the initial journey till the idea is executed and is operational for few months. That’s the right way to lead a change, with a good intent, for the benefit of a larger good. India needs many of these silent leaders to rise and work towards bringing back this great country’s past glory.