It’s not just the speeding vehicles that are to be blamed for the rise in fatal mishaps in the Punjabi Bagh traffic circle. The tragedy bears a sad testimony to the swiftness with which a bunch of slack government officials can turn a grand infrastructural investment into a labyrinth of death.
Punjabi Bagh, one of the most densely populated areas in the Capital and home to a majority of the city’s thriving business community, boasts of a series of interconnected flyovers and underpasses, which according to government claims, have made commuting to and from adjacent commercial hubs such as Rohini, Rani Bagh and even Connaught Place easier than ever before.
“But even a cursory glance at the two flyovers constructed on the Rohtak Road, the Punjabi Bagh underpass and the Najafgarh Road is enough to interpret that the area has fallen prey to lack of even minimal concern for the safety of motorists,” said professor PK Sarkar, a senior road safety and traffic infrastructure expert. Professor Sarkar is currently with the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA).
As per records tabulated by the Delhi Traffic Police, the Punjabi Bagh traffic circle, which consists of arterial routes such as the Rohtak Road, Najafgarh Road, a portion of the Ring Road and the Mundka Road, has been witness to the deaths of as many as 137 commuters in 2010.
As if the fact that it accounts for more than 6.51% of the total number of road fatalities in the Capital wasn’t enough, the Punjabi Bagh traffic circle has seen an increase of 4.6% in the number of fatal road accidents compared to the previous year.
“Punjabi Bagh traffic circle is perhaps the only one that has seen an increase in the number of fatal road accidents last year. While 131 accidents were reported to us in 2009, six more were reported last year. This should be seen in relation with the fact that all the areas that the traffic circle covers saw massive construction work in
2010,” said a senior traffic police officer.
The police believe there is not much that enforcement of traffic norms can do as far as criminally designed slip roads, lack of proper lighting on flyovers and underpasses, discontinuous and poorly designed service lanes and debris deposited on road sides are concerned. And even the senior road expert who visited the area with the Hindustan Times agreed. “There are no guide arrows on either of the two flyovers near the Punjabi Bagh bus depot from the main Rohtak Road, the Najafgarh Road or even while approaching the Punjabi Bagh underpass. There are absolutely no designated pedestrian crossing points and foot overbridges on either stretch. Add lack of proper street lighting to this, and you have got a web of death,” professor Sarkar said.
The most fatal design flaw that the Punjabi Bagh area suffers from, according to professor Sarkar, is ironically the existence of the flyovers themselves.
“What is the point in having flyovers with such narrow carriageways? There are no reflectors on either side of the boundaries on any of these flyovers. The curvature or the radius of the turn for vehicles taking a U-turn below both flyovers is very tight for heavy vehicles such as buses and heavy goods vehicles,” said professor Sarkar.
Besides, an auxiliary that these vehicles should ideally take to merge with oncoming traffic is missing. This not only makes this entire stretch unsafe for vehicles turning from below the flyover, but especially for bikers headed towards Rohini on foggy nights, professor Sarkar added.