Oxford Street in London doesn’t need it. Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris has managed without it for more than 300 years. Edwin Lutyens didn’t plan for it while building imperial Delhi.
But almost a century later, Delhi Traffic Police have decided to dig up roads in Lutyens’ Delhi to lay concrete medians.
The traffic police are worried about the rising number of accidents happening due to frequent lane overlapping by vehicles. Out of 1,918 fatal accidents reported last year, 33 were on roads, mostly in Lutyens’ Delhi, that didn’t have road dividers to segregate traffic.
“It has now become imperative to confine motorists to their respective lanes,” said traffic chief SN Srivastava.
New Delhi Municipal Council has already been told to start building one-foot-wide medians on four roads leading to the India Gate hexagon.
Some experts support the idea. “Medians minimise accident risk,” said PK Sarkar, professor at the Transportation Cell of School of Planning and Architecture. They probably do, as freeways across the world have dividers to segregate high-speed traffic.
But many do not think it is such a good idea for New Delhi. To them, it is equally an issue of mobility, safety and aesthetics. “Often, when such plans are implemented, design and aesthetics are totally overlooked. If at all they have to build such medians, they should see it is in harmony with the surroundings,” said Ratish Nanda, member of Delhi Urban Art Commission.
New Delhi roads, say some, were not planned for medians. Unless streets are wide enough, medians add to congestion. They also ask if medians in the rest of Delhi have actually brought down the number of accidents. In fact, while reducing the chances of head-on collision, medians encouraging jaywalking. The road dividers will also spoil the ambience of openness that New Delhi’s roads offer.
To minimise accidents, Delhi’s traffic police should focus on enforcement to rein in reckless drivers. How often do you see people being booked for crossing the yellow lines demarcating traffic lanes? One should not fiddle with Lutyens’ legacy when simple steps to discipline motorists can make the roads safer.