Bengaluru is going through the throes of one of these as we enter the last of the teenage years of the 2000 series. Cities that grow big all too suddenly, grow out of their boots. The old shoes just don’t fit! And that surely is the never-ever-catching-up argument of infrastructure versus need in the city.
We were talking about the infrastructure needs of Bengaluru in 1990 and we are still talking the same. A lot has fallen into place in the last three decades, and a lot has fallen out of place as well. The primary reason for all of this is the fact that as infrastructure fell into place, bigger populations also fell into place and filled in the blanks. Bengaluru’s population growth is not organic alone, it is inorganic as well. The city is a population magnet that has attracted numbers more than it can manage. And that’s where we stand today, at the cusp of 2019.
Let me take the biggest issue of Bengaluru today. Ask an insider, and ask equally an outsider who visits the city. The big grouse is the traffic. But why complain about traffic? Must we not celebrate it instead? To an extent this is not aimless traffic. This is not traffic of the back-packers. This is not tourist traffic. This is traffic that makes the money for the city in many ways. It is a traffic of working people who add to the economic effort of the city as it nudges ahead breaking per capita income standard records.
Back to the big T word then! The brand is a thought. A thought that lives in people’s minds. This thought is normally a singular word, a singular sound, and a singular visual at times. If Bengaluru reminds you of one thing when you think of it, it is its traffic. Now, that’s not a good memory-tag to hold in people’s minds. To an extent, the one big visual mnemonic of the city is the traffic signal. Ouch! That’s nasty!
So, if the infrastructure debate needs to start for the city, it needs to start with its roads. And there are many ways to go about that debate. Firstly there is the condition of our roads. How well are they made? How well are they maintained? How wide are they? How seamless in traffic flow terms are they? How congested do they get? How is traffic sense?
Many questions and each need an answer. To cut a long story short in a never-ending and boring debate on roads and traffic, let me summarize a set of solutions.
We need to talk the language of roads on roads now. This is going to be a city of flyovers if it needs to get its traffic flow act right.
White-topping of roads is an answer for sure, provided we are able to maintain these white-topped roads without digging into them at the next temptation of a public body that wants to lay something under them. A sturdy city needs sturdy roads.
We need to stop allowing parking on the roads during daytime hours for sure. A car parked on either side of a 4-lane road is essentially constricting it into a 2-lane flow! This is traffic-cholesterol build up at its best! We are consciously cutting the power of traffic flow by half. Why?
The traffic police needs to get onto a regime of zero-tolerance in terms of traffic violations, be it in terms of wrong parking, wrong lane driving, driving against the traffic flow, and driving on the footpaths for sure.
Maintenance of roads needs to be an area of priority. We allow for small potholes to become mother potholes. And mother potholes becomes monsters we don’t need!
(Harish Bijoor, Brand-expert &CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc)