Bengaluru

Highways take a toll on pedestrians

Twice the number of people die on highways that traverse Bangalore than in the city centrewhere vehicular traffic is understandably slower and also less fatal. Photo: K. Gopinathan

Twice the number of people die on highways that traverse Bangalore than in the city centrewhere vehicular traffic is understandably slower and also less fatal. Photo: K. Gopinathan  

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A map of road accidents in Bangalore shows up a distinct ring around the city: this is where the majority of road accidents are concentrated. Multi-lane highways — both national and State — that enter and leave the city account for the majority of road deaths. And, as much as half of those who lose their lives here are pedestrians.

With urban development setting its priorities on easing the commute for motorists, the pedestrian is often left to negotiate the stream of high speed traffic without basic infrastructure such as subways, skywalks or even zebra crossings.

Statistics

Statistics confirm this worrying trend: police records show that in 2011 (till September) National Highways claimed 119 people, while 53 people died on State Highways in the same time frame.

A 2011 study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS), which mapped the road accident patterns in the city, shows that twice the number of people die on highways that traverse the city than in the city centre where vehicular traffic is understandably slower and also less fatal.

The report, “Road Safety in India: A Framework for Action”, by G. Gururaj, professor at NIMHANS, shows that in each of these peripheral areas — including Yeshwantpur, Yelahanka, Whitefield, Peenya and Mico Layout — more than 20 people died in road accidents in 2010.

However, in central areas such as Indiranagar, Majestic and Ulsoor, fatalities are significantly lower, at less than 10 a year.

According to official statistics, over 50 per cent of road accidents in the city were reported from police stations in just 10 peripheral roads in 2009: Tumkur Road, Doddaballapur Road, Bellary Road, Old Madras Road, Hosur Road, Kanakapura Road, Mysore Road, Magadi Road, Bannerghatta Road and Outer Ring Road.

Together, these accounted for 358 of the 733 road deaths that year. Of this, nearly half (163) were pedestrians who lost their lives.

The NIMHANS study points out that the actual number of road deaths could be much higher due to underreporting. Information is not always shared among police, hospitals and other agencies.

Pedestrians have always, and continue to, comprise around 50 per cent of all road deaths, says M.A. Saleem, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic and Security). And most fatalities happen on arterial roads — national and State highways, he admits.

The way ahead

Road widening has assisted the exponentially increasing numbers of vehicles plying the city's roads: from 5 lakh in 1995 to 25 lakh in 2010, this swelling statistic has brought along with it an entirely motorist-centric model of development.

Proposed policy interventions, such as the DULT's draft policy (2008) and other sub-committee reports, are still only on paper.

This problem affects pedestrians across the country, says M.N. Sreehari, advisor to the State Government on Traffic, Transportation and Infrastructure Project.

The intervention, he feels, has to be focussed on creating awareness, particularly among those who live in villages near highways.

He believes that National Highway 7, which connects the city to the airport, is the “highest risk zone” in the country.

Others believe that the only solution is to stop focusing on “freeing the roads of signals”, instead focus on road safety, the rights of pedestrians, in particular.

As Praveen Sood, Additional Director-General of Police and Commissioner (Traffic and Road Safety), points out: “The laws have to work to protect residents, who live along these wide highways.”

A representative of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) said that creating infrastructure on these arterial roads was a “continuous process” as requirements for highways change constantly with habitation. “Flyovers and elevated expressways are some ways to make highways less congested by traffic and we have done that in Bangalore,” said the official, who did not want to be named.

He added that the NHAI will be providing more pedestrian crossings on Bellary Road.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 1:00:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/highways-take-a-toll-on-pedestrians/article2527745.ece

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