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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

OPINION | India should consider taking ‘traffic-calming’ measures

Over the past few years, the number of fatalities and injuries due to road accidents has steadily increased. India is among the highest in number as well as rate of road fatalities. Over 1,50,000 people die every year, which is more than 400 per day.

columns Updated: Mar 15, 2019 10:19 IST

Gurugram had 446 road fatalities in 2018, of which 168 were pedestrian fatalities.
Gurugram had 446 road fatalities in 2018, of which 168 were pedestrian fatalities.(Picture for representation)
         

Over the past few years, the number of fatalities and injuries due to road accidents has steadily increased. India is among the highest in number as well as rate of road fatalities. Over 1,50,000 people die every year, which is more than 400 per day. Of these deaths, each day 16 children are victims. The fatality rate is 11 per 1,00,000. While 25% of the casualties are two-wheeler riders, pedestrians and cyclists are among the most vulnerable. Gurugram had 446 road fatalities in 2018, of which 168 were pedestrian fatalities.

Most of our cities have chaotic streets and traffic. Breaking traffic rules seems to be ingrained in our DNA (except when we go out of the country!). Further, the poor state of our footpaths lead most pedestrians to walk on the road. All our cities are crumbling under the pressure of traffic, leading to pollution and congestion. But it is also leading to increasing deaths and accidents. As our cities build roads that can move cars faster, the number of fatalities and injuries will also go up. When traffic is more slow-moving, accidents do not cause as many fatalities. But in our quest for speed and focus on cars has led road planners to prioritise roads primarily for moving cars.

Cities around the world have begun adopting traffic calming measures to address the impact of fast-moving motorised vehicles and creating safer street environments. There are several aims of traffic calming in cities — getting vehicles to move at desired speeds, providing space for all users, making sure emergency vehicles can move on priority and streetscaping are all key. These are very important to consider when designing city streets. First is the desired speed for vehicular movement — on highways and six-lane roads, it is certainly possible to have faster moving traffic, but on smaller city roads, especially those running through neighbourhoods, traffic needs to move at a slower rate.

The second aim is to provide space for all users. In India, the street is used by people on foot and non-motorised transport such as cycles or cycle rickshaws, as well e-vehicles, which move slower. This is one area where most cities fall very short. If we look at Gurugram, we find that no separate space has been provided for pedestrians and slower moving traffic almost anywhere in the city. Thirdly, there is no provision for moving emergency vehicles. How many times have we seen ambulances stuck in traffic jams unable to manoeuvre their way out. This element has to become a part of road design.

Fourthly, streetscaping involves elements such as greenery and trees, street furniture such as benches and sitting spaces, managing all underground utilities on the streets, signage, lighting, pavement planning, medians and street corners. The aim of streetscaping is to make streets more aesthetic while maintaining functionality and safety. There are many points of Gurugram that could benefit from streetscaping to organise the space as well as the flow of traffic — both human and cars. Innovative streetscaping can sometimes involve very simple measures such as painting the road on major intersections to ensure that traffic moves in an orderly fashion and pedestrians can cross safely, while at the same time enhancing the aesthetics of the street.

The lack of good pedestrian crossings in Gurugram leads people to take risks with their lives every day. It is imperative for our city streets to be planned better or else we will continue to lose lives to road accidents.

(Co-founder and CEO of Safetipin, the author works on issues of women’s safety and rights in cities)

First Published: Mar 15, 2019 10:19 IST

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