Logical Solutions to Bangalore’s Traffic – Part III: Signage and Lighting

August 18th, 2010

…continuing from the previous post…

(and here’s the first part of the series)

Then we’ve got the problem of lighting and signage. I’ve never been able to figure out why lighting isn’t considered important enough on Bangalore roads. Even the brand new toll expressway to Electronics City has got stretches without lighting (bulbs fused or more likely no power). I think it’s important to make a plan now that would replace all the street lights on all major roads with solar powered LED lamps within the next 3 years. Firstly, moving all the street lights off the electricity grid would mean consistent lighting for the roads and lower electricity consumption for the whole city. And secondly, LED lights would last longer and have environmental impact. It may cost more up front, but it would make a huge difference in the long term.

In terms of traffic lights, I’ve been hearing about this integrated traffic management system for the last few years, but I still have to see the effects on the ground. Half the traffic lights in our city are synchronized so badly with actual traffic movement that the cop on the street turns off the lights and directs the traffic by hand. THIS IS A BAD IDEA. Firstly, the cop can’t really make out how much traffic is piled up behind a bend in the road or at the next junction and therefore lets a particular stream of traffic flow causing pile-ups elsewhere. Secondly, the drivers of the vehicles often can’t see the cop and therefore assume that the signal is a free-for-all and cause further jams. Or then you have three or four cops at a junction putting good manpower to bad use.

After a decade of being known as India’s IT city, why can we not have intelligent traffic lights at least on the main arteries? I’ve seen so many situations around 10pm or later on Outer Ring Road or the new Airport Road where there is a red light at a junction and huge volumes of traffic are stuck waiting for 30 seconds or longer even though there is no cross-junction traffic! Traffic lights based on actual traffic volume are in use around the world, why not here? In fact, I bet that if the Karnataka government made a competition for engineering students, that we’d get a half-a-dozen proof-of-concept entries which would do the same thing as expensive traffic lights but cheaper and easier to build. And then give the designs to BEL or something and build them cheap.

In continuation of the traffic light problems, why are the lights switched off at 11pm. It’s foolish. They’re mostly switched off because people jump the lights. But if the lights were intelligent, then people wouldn’t need to jump them. On major roads, the traffic lights should be on 24×7.

Signage is another big infrastructure problem. Do you know that there are still signs which indicate underpass construction for underpasses completed over a year ago? “Slow down, underpass under construction.” And you slow down to find no work and the “under-construction” underpass is already complete! Or take the signposts on Outer Ring Road between Marathalli and K. R. Puram. Earlier this stretch used to be a mess because of traffic cutting across the road, but now with a dedicated u-turn area in front of the ISRO building, it’s improved dramatically. But every now and then you find vehicles slowing down at every previously open junction. Why? Because the signs that indicate the location of the u-turn are impossibly small. Try reading them in the rain at even 30kmph without causing an accident (good luck!). Or take the signs for the junction at the old airport road – Indiranagar junction. You need to be clever or lucky or have travelled the road before to know which loop will take you in which direction. But a little distance away you’ve got huge signboards indicating the direction to M. G. Road. Why aren’t all the signs this big?

The biggest place where our signs are inadequate is in the under construction areas (metro, utility works and road works). The signs are often black on green which is one of the worst contrast colours. And they are non reflective and often set up too close to the construction work.

Is it too much to require the contractors doing this work to provide proper signage. At least a few hundred meters before the actual construction there should be signs in black on yellow or red on yellow with reflective paint clearly giving instructions. “Construction Ahead. Slow Down.” or “Take diversion to the left.” And construction areas should be better lit than the rest of the road. Of course this seems to be in opposition to the norm!

And other signs seem to be completely stupid. Signs indicating speeds of 20kmph in areas where vehicles travel routinely in excess of 70kmph mean that the signs are there for no purpose. 20kmph is far too slow on major roads to make any sense.

to be continued… (part 4)

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