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Better Engineering Can Significantly Improve Road Safety in India

Road engineering – the way urban streets are designed and built – plays an extremely important role in ensuring road safety. The right kind of engineering for a street would include measures that actively restrict the scope for road users to violate speed limits and other traffic rules. For instance, a roundabout or intersection would need to have appropriate infrastructure that takes into consideration vehicular capacity, turning radii, visibility, pedestrian movement, and other factors in order to be effective and significantly reduce the likelihood of a traffic violation. In addition, traffic behaviour and enforcement of traffic laws can be improved by properly engineered infrastructure.

An example of this is from Mumbai. Design changes made at two intersections, one in Bandra West and another at Nagpada, resulted in improved travel time for commuters, and better pedestrian management and access. In the past, these intersections had reported a number of fatalities owing to poorly designed infrastructure. By increasing the island area for pedestrians, and reorganising motorised and non-motorised traffic to improve traffic flow, these intersections were made safer for all users.

Participants at the Haryana Vision Zero workshop in Gurugram in April 2018

This was showcased at a workshop held last month, organised as part of the India Vision Zero initiative, that brought together road engineers from public works departments (PWD) from various cities in Haryana, as well as participants from state and national agencies. Using Mumbai as an example, participants – including road safety experts from WRI India – worked on redesigning and rethinking intersections in Haryana.

At the workshop, two critical intersections in Gurugram – Bakhtawar Chowk and the intersection at Aarya Samaj Marg (near Unitech Business Park) – were considered owing to the alarmingly high number of fatalities reported. Several reasons for these fatalities were uncovered by workshop participants by analysing the existing on-ground infrastructure.

One of the key issues was excessive road space that inadvertently encouraged motorists to drive on the wrong side. This resulted in limited pedestrian access, and restricted differently-abled people from using the walkway. Through discussions, several solutions were suggested by the engineers that could be easily implemented without disrupting traffic flow or incurring unnecessary expenditure.

The approach of this workshop that combined on-ground investigation and analysis with classroom-style instruction offered a better understanding to participants on how to make streets safer for all. More such workshops under the Haryana Vision Zero programme are scheduled to take place in other districts in the near future.

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