Know more about the city's transportation system in the weekly column 'Roads and Rails'.

As the private vehicle population in the city rose by nearly 300 per cent in the last 15 years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of one-way lanes to accommodate this exponential rise in vehicle population.

Various rationales are used for the introduction of one-way lane traffic — smoother traffic flow, reduction in fuel consumption and an increase in average vehicular speed. However, the space required for providing relief to motorists is taken over from pedestrians and cyclists. Pedestrians trying to cross a column of fast-moving traffic pay the price.

A study conducted by the Department of Transportation, IIT-Madras, on traffic accident patterns on Sardar Patel Road in 2009 shows that 48 per cent of the accidents on the stretch involved pedestrians or cyclists. A total of 39 pedestrian accidents were reported last year. More than 50 per cent of the accidents happened on or very close to a demarcated crossing point.

J. Krishnamoorthy, Joint Director, Institute of Road Transport said “One-way traffic which gives complete right of way to motorists is acceptable near commercial hubs. But it should never pass through a residential or school zone. On-street parking must also be highly restricted along one-way lanes.”

According to him, since vehicle density was the highest during rush-hour traffic, one-ways must be restricted to those hours in most cases. “Also, pedestrians are never taken into consideration when traffic modification studies are made. The one-way system in the Nungambakkam High Road-Haddows road segment is definitely a failure on the pedestrian front.” The 1.5-km-long one-way stretch from College Road to Haddows Road has just one foot over-bridge (FOB). P.Sethu Raj, who works in an establishment on College Road, says “The easiest way to cross the road is to run across. .”

The boom in one-way streets began with the Cold War in the 1950s, when many U.S. cities planned quick routes out of town for evacuation in case of a nuclear attack. However, many western cities have started reverting to two-lane traffic with dedicated space for pedestrians and cyclists. The most recent example is London, which started facing out one-way systems in central business areas in April.

Shreya Gadepalli, Director of the Ahmedabad-based Institute of Transportation Policy, says “While one-way lanes could be sometimes useful in inner cities, motorists must also not go through the discomfort of taking a long detour along a one-way corridor to reach their destination. A solution being tried out in New York is a one-way arrangement for motorised traffic, while allowing two-way lanes for cyclists and pedestrians on the same road. The two zones could be separated by a parking area. This would incentivise cycling and also give enough space for motorists.”