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City loses way: Most roads have no names, no clear directions

For Shakespeare there was not much in a name. But ask any Gurgaon resident, particularly those who have come from outside, and they will tell you the importance of names when it comes to city roads and landmarks, most of which are unidentified.

gurgaon Updated: Jun 29, 2015 10:18 IST

For Shakespeare there was not much in a name. But ask any Gurgaon resident, particularly those who have come from outside, and they will tell you the importance of names when it comes to city roads and landmarks, most of which are unidentified.

Navigating through Gurgaon is a task that will leave many harrowed.

Consider this, if your car breaks down in a part of Gurgaon unfamiliar to you, how do you make sure help reaches you?

The residents will tell you how help usually gets delayed because most roads have no names to help you give clear directions to a person trying to reach you. They themselves are confused in the nameless maze and authorities fare no better when they are called out for a rescue.

Ambulances take an inordinately long time to reach accident victims and police vans keep going in circles. The most common description for any location is ‘behind a mall’ or ‘in front of a gated complex’.

Hira Kawa, an engineer from Japan, has a harrowing experience to share. The one time he wanted police help, he was left floundering. “Two men snatched my mobile phone near Sector 29 in April this year. I borrowed a mobile phone from a passerby and called my friend. I asked him to get help to me. I tried to convey my location with whatever information was available and, despite waiting for 40 minutes, help did not reach. It took my friend almost an hour to reach me,” he said. Police fared no better. They it took more than half an hour to reach Kawa.

With the view of making life easier for Gurgaon residents, Hindustan Times has decided to carry out a campaign to name all important roads and landmarks in Gurgaon and press the administration to install proper signage. This would not only help the residents but also the large volume of people who come from Delhi, Faridabad and Noida to work in Gurgaon.

Gurgaon, residents say, presents a stark dichotomy — it offers world-class commercial and residential space amid a decaying and poorly laid civic infrastructure.

What surprises Kishore Asthana, a former CEO, is not only the poor condition of the roads, but also the absence of names and signages. In the US, he says naming roads and installing signage is both an art and science. “You can drive from point A to B in peace knowing that you will get proper directions and signs along the way,” he says.

In comparison, Gurgaon, which aspires to be a ‘smart city’, is without a compass.

Apart from a few historical roads — MG Road, Old Delhi-Gurgaon Road, Railway Road and Sohna Road — there are few roads, especially in New Gurgaon, which have a proper name.

Even online retailers, food delivery outlets and courier firms say that finding a particular address is usually a ‘trial and error’ method in Gurgaon.

Laura Duijvestijn, a Dutch national, says cab drivers also get confused in Gurgaon. “It is difficult to get to an exact location because roads and landmarks are unmarked,” she says.

What Gurgaon lacks: The science of finding ways

Amit Bhatt of Embarq blames it on the lack of urban planning. He says the ‘science of way finding’ has made little headway in India, forget Gurgaon.

“In countries abroad, all angles are taken into account while naming roads and putting up sign boards. The perspective of both local residents and visitors
are taken into account,” he says.

Naming of roads is also important for a city’s image and gives each area an identity of its own. Multiplicity of agencies and lack of political will have ensured that efforts in the past to name roads have come to naught.

Nisha Singh, a councillor of the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon, and Kishore Asthana, carried out a survey on the issue and met top urban planning experts to chalk out a solution.

“Lack of road names is a reflection of our lack of basic civic sense. Although it is a complex process and involves multiple agencies, it can be done if the government takes urban planning seriously,” Singh said.

What the government intends to do

Haryana PWD minister Rao Narbir Singh said, “I have felt embarrassed that roads in my city have no names. I have requested the MCG and deputy commissioners to at least number roads that do not have names.”

Problems lie in the process

Experts say numbering a road is an unviable suggestion as Gurgaon does not have a grid layout. Instead, a Delhilike naming authority should be set up to name roads, landmarks and parks.

First Published: Jun 29, 2015 10:07 IST