That good old red light 50 years ago

Google on Wednesday marked 101 years of the first electric traffic signal in the world with an animated doodle. While the world celebrates a centenary, Bengaluru’s tryst with them began over 50 years ago.

The first traffic signal in the city had only a red light. The city police came up with a desi version — a metal tin equipped with an incandescent bulb, covered with a red filter, operated manually by a switch below.

Lack of funds

The city should probably thank former top cop A.R. Nizamuddin, who passed away three weeks ago, and former MLC Hajee Abdul Sattar Sait, owner of Safina Towers, for introducing the system of traffic signals in the city.

Mr. Sait, speaking to The Hindu over phone from New York, recounted that the desi version was put up for lack of funds. An automated traffic signal, back then, was estimated to cost Rs. 3.6 lakh by the Industrial Training Institute (ITI).

“I was the chairman of the taxation committee in the corporation. Our budget was Rs. 98 lakh then. Mr. Nizamuddin, who was Deputy Commissioner (Traffic) then, was my classmate. We went and met the then Home Minister R.M. Patil to seek funds. But, he refused. Undeterred, we both put up the desi version at N.R. Square. I inaugurated it myself,” Mr. Sait recounted.


The signal was later replaced with an electric automated traffic signal on a cost-sharing basis between the corporation and the State government, he said.

Bengaluru has come a long way since then. The city today has 353 traffic signals and 55 pelican signals.

All the signals today are empowered by solar panels and are not dependent on power supply.

“Today, it is very hard to believe that there was a time in the past, when power failure in the area would make road signals dysfunctional, sending traffic in the area into chaos. This was the scenario till 2003, when solar power-empowered signals were introduced,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) M.A. Saleem.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 7:35:16 AM |

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