Poor traffic management cause for worry

No encouragement for taking vehicles off crowded streets

 
Published: Sunday 07 June 2015

-- hell, I'd like to walk to work everyday. Save money and earn a few carbon credits. But just check out how the municipal authorities and old habits let me do it. From home to office is just five kilometres, but there's the heat. So you need the airconditioned comfort of the car. And, of course, the prospect of being gored by an errant bull is not particularly inviting. Other hazards are ubiquitous. No pavement space and an uncanny resemblance to an obstacle course whenever you venture out. So we come full circle: why walk, just buy a car and turn on the gas. Four wheels are better than two legs.

Wrong assumption. For all reasons two legs might actually be the better option -- both social and altruistic. First, walking is more fuel-efficient -- that's a big plus given global oil prices. You might need to increase your fruit intake, but the carbon emissions are definitely going to go down. And there's the health angle of course. Dodging puddles makes for more agility -- that is almost proven. Getting out of the way of two-wheelers at split-second notice usually helps develop hand-eye coordination and speeds up the reflexes, the medical establishment vouchsafes. And, of course, walking to work does not entail the risk of being trapped in a burning vehicle without easy egress, even though the possibility of being run off the road is always real with sports utility vehicles taking over.

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But it's too much to expect that the government will sit up and take notice. Someone in the labyrinthine bureaucracy might just about think one day that the mass transit system should be improved not just to improve the travel conditions of the less privileged, but also to induce the more privileged to get some exercise. But that bureaucrat will probably end up pushing files all his life, not getting some decent exercise, say, cycling to work. To be honest, however, there has been some improvement in Delhi. The switch to compressed natural gas has resulted in a dramatic improvement in air quality, while the overground underground has possibly taken some vehicular traffic off the roads on specified routes.

But the problem that remains is that there is no overall logic in traffic management countrywide. In the metropolises, the catch-all solution seems to be more flyovers, presumably to accommodate more vehicles. The middle-class dream continues to define policy parameters.

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