Stop-lights make motorists on flyovers see red

NEW DELHI: After several months, Deepak Mahajan came back to Delhi and was driving from Safdarjung Enclave to Defence Colony. Going up the new AIIMS clover-leaf flyover, he thought traffic snarls at the crossing were a thing of the past.

He sped up, crossed the first left turn and as his car touched 50 kmph, he had to suddenly screech to a halt. The jams had begun from the middle of the flyover. Welcome to a world where flying over is yet to become a reality and red-lights at the base of flyovers quickly bring one down to earth.

Life hasn’t improved after flyovers and the office-goer feels as harassed as ever. ‘‘Even after the long-awaited flyovers at AIIMS and Andrews Ganj have come up, commuters on Ring Road are still held up by unsynchronised red-lights and unplanned bus-stops,’’ says office-goer Punit Kumar, who travels every day from RK Puram to his office in Lajpat Nagar. Jammed stretch

Going towards Defence Colony from AIIMS, the jams often begin from the flyover itself. ‘‘There are two red-lights between AIIMS and Andrews Ganj and this stretch is perpetually jammed,’’ said Gunjan, a resident of South Extension-II.

‘‘The Moolchand flyover is another bottleneck. The traffic, speeding after the two flyovers at AIIMS and Andrews Ganj, comes to a grinding halt,’’ said architect Archana Jain, a commuter from Sarojini Nagar to Ashram.

And there are such commuters aplenty. Complains Tapas Kumar, a food and beverage manager in a south Delhi hotel, ‘‘Most flyovers are followed immediately by red-lights, and at the junction the traffic is swelled by vehicles coming from under the flyover.’’

Delhi Transport Corporation’s (DTC) financial advisor, Savitur Prasad, who is looking after traffic and operations, says, ‘‘This is the most common problem reported by our drivers.’’

Sudden halt Prasad, who gets reports for all the DTC’s 2,200 buses, says loaded buses are at risk of overturning, if there is a sudden halt after zooming down the flyover. There are 650 traffic lights in the city and experts say that at any four-armed junction there are 16 traffic movements — 12 vehicular and four pedestrian.

‘‘The idea behind synchronisation is to maximise free traffic flow. It depends entirely on feedback from the field staff, who adjust the timings from their experience of traffic flow on each arm,’’ said Gautam Chatterjee, a road safety expert, who has authored literature for the traffic police. Says joint commissioner of police (traffic) Maxwell Pereira, ‘‘studies have established that a commuter’s patience level at red-lights is up to 120 seconds. If the light remains red beyond that, drivers tend to jump across.’’

The traffic police admit that many places still have 180 seconds of waiting time. ‘‘This automatically means long queues of vehicles that can turn into a jam within minutes,’’ says computer professional Indrani Chatterjee, a Chittaranjan Park resident.

However, deputy commissioner of police (traffic) Satish Golchha says signals are re-synchronised after flyovers are opened. ‘‘With the change in traffic pattern, signal synchronisation has to be redone,’’ he said.

But red-lights after flyovers are unsynchronised and also prone to develop faults. ‘‘There are at least a dozen red-lights that are defective at any time, and the number can go up to 25-30 a day,’’ a senior traffic police official said. Half these faults are due to fusing of bulbs, while the rest happen due to short-circuits and water seepage.
The traffic chaos worsens with unofficial bus-stops coming after the flyovers. There are 5,000 bus-stops altogether and most of them are badly located.

DTC’s Savitur Prasad explains, ‘‘There was no heavy traffic earlier and very few flyovers.’’ Rohit Baluja, president of the Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE), says bus-stops should ideally be located 100 to 150 metres away from a flyover.

Deputy commissioner of police (New Delhi range), traffic, Arun Kampani says: ‘‘Unscientifically located bus-stops obstruct traffic.’’ But the traffic police cannot force the civic agencies to shift them.
Anil Sood, who heads a non-governmental organisation Chetna which campaigns for road safety, explains that a bus descending from a flyover and turning left for a stop, ‘‘needs at least 50 metres to avoid a collision with the merging traffic from the underpass’’. Traffic from a flyover and an underpass can collide easily. ‘‘One tends to over-speed while coming down a flyover,’’ said Baluja.

Queue of buses

A member of the Delhi Urban Arts Commission, who did not want to be named, pointed to the bus-stop near Chirag Delhi flyover. ‘‘The flyover carriageway and its left-side underpass merge closely. And you have a bus-stop there. Pedestrians can hardly cross,’’ he said.
A bus-stop near a crossing means a queue of buses jamming the intersection. Traffic chaos is common at the IIT crossing with buses cutting off traffic flow. Sudipto Poti, who travels by bus from Green Park, says: ‘‘Buses from three different directions stop here. It’s tough for pedestrians.’’

The PWD has a proposal to make bays where bus-stops can be located without interfering with traffic. While 93 such locations are being finalised, existing bus-stops after flyovers continue to be a hazard, that can easily turn fatal.


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