Look Who's on the Road

India Pedestrians
India Pedestrians at busy intersection in Mumbai. Photo by saibotregeel.

Engineering is often the only factor considered during design and implementation of junction improvements plans at key locations where flyovers are built. But the reality is that these locations are commonly filled with pedestrians and used as transit points, and any plan that overlooks this is doomed from the start.
Originally Published on IndiaTogether.com

How many times have you heard someone say, “Building this flyover has made the traffic situation worse, not better”? If you live in any of the major metropolitan areas, I suspect you’ve been within earshot of that view – or even expressed it yourself – quite often. All sorts of reasons are furnished – lack of land allotment, inadequate enforcement, bad design of the flyover itself, etc. Being a transport planner, I wondered about some of the reasons offered, and came up with two key explanations of my own. I decided to test my hypothesis, by making some observations of my own.

I visited two locations – first, the Silk Board junction in Bangalore (intersection of Hosur road and Outer Ring Road), which is the gateway to Electronic City southeast of the metropolis, and second, the flyover on Western Express Highway in Andheri, Mumbai (formerly known as the Goldspot Junction). At both locations, I found the same two issues that I suspected had never been considered during any stage of the design and construction – high pedestrian traffic, and stops made by outstation and other private buses. These problems are also a common feature, I am sure, of virtually any flyover in the peripheral neighbourhoods of all cities; a singular ‘engineering’ mentality to design and construction has resulted in grand structures, but these don’t appear to have solved the underlying problems that prompted their construction.

The quality of steel and quantity of concrete do matter, of course. But while engineering excellence is necessary, it should be accompanied by an effort to understand, identify and address location-specific constraints and conditions. Without this, we will simply see an endless array of plans gone awry on the street, at great expense to taxpayers.

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