Gurugram’s infamous wrong side driving, a cause of concern
Putting their own and others’ lives in danger, drivers in Gurugram love to travel on the wrong side. Mostly done to cut a few minutes of travel time, the practice not only causes traffic congestion but also leads to accidents.
On May 6, two people died when the vehicle they were travelling in collided with an SUV travelling in the wrong direction inside the Sikandarpur underpass on Golf Course Road. Although such accidents are not frequent, the reason for it — wrong side driving – is fairly rampant in Gurugram.
Each of the three spots that are mostly associated with wrong side driving in the city — the DLF Phase 3-Ambience mall stretch, Genpact Chowk, and the Iffco Chowk U-turn flyover — are, in fact, located less than 8 kilometers away from the underpass.
The extent of traffic violation in the vicinity of these areas, which mostly goes unchecked on a daily basis, puts both commuters and pedestrians in the area at risk of life changing accidents.
DLF Phase 3- Ambience Mall stretch
Nitesh Ranjan, a resident of DLF Phase 3, admitted that he resorts to wrong side driving to reach Ambience Mall every fortnight, as it helps him reduce his journey by 6 kilometers and saves him around 20 minutes of driving time.
He, however, is not alone in admitting to this violation.
Many other residents and commuters said they do the same. Several people, who take cabs, also cited the fact that if they cross the border and take the U-turn at Rajokri flyover, they have to pay ₹100 in toll tax to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) — a cost they can avoid by simply requesting their driver to approach Ambience mall by diverting from the normal flow of traffic.
“I would lay the blame squarely on the authorities for this mess. I am not denying that wrong side driving is risky but why should I drive along the expressway, through the congestion at the Sirhaul toll, and take a turn below the Rajokri flyover to reach Ambience mall when a 900m drive, even if on the wrong side, can help me reach my destination without much hassle,” Ranjan said.
As a result of this violation, on any given day, the stretch between DLF Phase 3 and Ambience Mall on the expressway sees a steady line of vehicles travelling in the wrong direction, spilling into two lanes during rush hours. While some grumble about the dangers this exposes pedestrians and other commuters to, there are some people who see a silver lining in the fact that, as a result of wrong side driving, there is no dearth of public transport vehicles that they can access along the 900 metre stretch – a task that may have otherwise been more challenging considering the area falls along the border.
As these vehicles stop to drop off their fares, having approached the mall after drifting from the normal flow of traffic, the drivers de-board and start pursuing pedestrians looking for a ride to other parts of the city.
Two months ago, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had submitted a detailed project report (DPR) to its headquarters in New Delhi for approval for the construction of a U turn underpass near Ambience mall. The structure, officials say, is expected to begin near the Shankar Chowk flyover (on the Udyog Vihar side) and cover nearly 150 metres before ending at the Leela Hotel on the other side of the expressway. The NHAI is expected to start construction of the underpass by October.
U-turn flyover at IFFCO Chowk
The one-way U turn flyover at Iffco Chowk was thrown open to commuters on November 1, with officials expecting it would help people travelling from Mehrauli-Gurugram (MG) Road towards New Delhi to bypass the congestion at Iffco Chowk entirely, making their journey smoother.
Soon after the launch, however, it was fairly evident that the structure was failing to meet its desired objective, as commuters coming from Sukhrali, used it to travel towards MG Road, Leisure Valley Road and Signature Towers, instead of taking the correct route to the area through Iffco Chowk. As a result, heavy commercial vehicles, cars, three-wheelers and even cycles are seen travelling in the wrong direction on the flyover.
“A scooter coming from the wrong side hit my vehicle head-on once. Luckily, the impact was at low speed and the scooter driver escaped with minor bruises. Had I been distracted or had one of us been speeding, the incident could have had a more serious outcome. I still don’t understand why authorities do not carry out a drive near the flyover to curb this violation (wrong side driving). There’s a disaster waiting to happen anytime,” Kapil Shekhawat, a resident of Sukhrali, said.
Although the NHAI has constructed another one-way flyover on the expressway, allowing commuters travelling from the direction of Sukhrali to travel towards MG Road, Leisure Valley and Signature Towers, without having to travel through the congestion at Iffco Chowk, the structure is currently barricaded due to high tension towers and a gas pipeline that are deemed to be obstructing its completion. Once, it is opened, however, it is likely to reduce congestion in the area while also resolving the problem of wrong side driving to some extent.
The upscale Golf Course Road in Gurugram has undergone a major transformation over the last two years, with the opening of three new underpasses to commuters. This development, however, has come at a price. Before the underpasses were built, commuters could turn left and right and even take U-turns on the 7km stretch. However, since the underpasses were opened, these cuts have been closed to commuters and motorists.
Instead of travelling a few extra kilometers to take the requisite turns meant for them, several drivers prefer to shorten their routes by indulging in wrong side driving. Two points in Genpact Chowk area are particularly problematic in this context.
The first of these is the junction itself, where vehicles coming from the direction of St Thomas Marg and heading towards AIT Chowk, extensively indulge in wrong side driving. The drivers of these vehicles, if they follow the correct route, have to take a left turn as they hit the Golf Course Road and then take the first U-turn, 100 metres later, to travel towards AIT Chowk. Instead, however, several vehicles take a right turn at Golf Course Road, travel against the traffic for 40 metres, and then take the U-turn opposite South Point mall to travel towards Sector 56.
This creates major congestion, especially during peak hours, when there is already a heavy flow of traffic along the stretch.
“The Golf Course Road gets heavily congested at peak hours and, to avoid the traffic, I often see a queue of vehicles driving on the wrong side to take a turn opposite South Point Mall. They do so despite traffic that may be approaching from the AIT Chowk side at high speed,” Aniket Kapoor, a resident of Westend Heights, said.
Only a few metres away from this spot is another U-turn, where wrong side driving is rampant. Located opposite Vipul Belmonte, the turn is meant to be accessed by vehicles coming from the direction of Gurugram-Faridabad road and DLF5, who want to travel towards Genpact Chowk.
Contrary to its purpose, however, it is often accessed by vehicles travelling from the direction of AIT chowk, heading towards Park Drive, Gurugram-Faridabad Road and the Sector 53-54 Chowk Metro station.
The violation has become a cause of concern in the area, with several accidents taking place over the last year. Although authorities have constantly been tinkering with the opening and closing of the U-turn due to this issue, a permanent solution is yet to be found, with officials realising that closing the turn has led to AIT Chowk attracting a much higher load of vehicles than it can accommodate, causing snarls on the Golf Course Road.
This experiment of closing the U-turn was tried on August 3, which led to a six-hour snarl on Golf Course Road.
Authorities can curb the violation to some extent at Genpact Chowk by placing concrete jersey barriers so that there is no space left for commuters to make a right turn against the normal tide of traffic, and drive in the wrong direction.
As authorities continue to struggle to find a permanent solution to the issue that plagues the entire city, traffic experts believe an effective measure may be increasing the penalty for the violation and immediate suspension of the licence of the erring driver.
“Traffic police in the city are short staffed and, hence, it is difficult for them to keep an eye on the movement of traffic and check for violations. Gurugram traffic police can either take a cue from New Delhi where the fine for violation is Rs 1,000 and licences can be suspended for three months if drivers are caught with this violation,” Sarika Panda Bhatt, programme coordinator with Haryana Vision Zero, an initiative to reduce road accidents, said.
Hitesh Yadav, ACP traffic, sought to assure commuters that traffic police is working towards curbing such violations and has ‘already initiated drives to check wrong side driving.’ Yadav however, did not make any further commnets on the issue.