The worst fears of civic activists have come true. The one-way street "experiment" on Jangli Maharaj road and Fergusson college road started off without the basic infrastructure for pedestrian and cycle safety, and slowing down of motorized traffic. Inevitably, it led to its first casualty on Saturday, 5th November, when a six-year old boy lost his life to a speeding bus.This was in spite of many citizen's groups meeting with city officials and arriving at a plan that provided for pedestrian, cyclist safety, reduced inconvenience to bus passengers and controlled vehicle speeds on these corridors more than six months before the so-called experiment.Ironically, this ghastly accident took place within an hour or two of a meeting in the PMC premises where many civic organizations such a Parisar, Pedestrians First, Pune Cycle Pratishtan and Save Pune Traffic Movement conveyed very strongly to the authorities that the "experiment" being conducted on the two roads was extremely ad-hoc and did not incorporate any of those safety elements that had been agreed upon.
Unfortunately, the municipal corporation and the police are happy to point fingers at each other for who is responsible for the six month delay in providing any of those safety measures, or for starting the experiment without those measures in place. In fact, it is worse. They do not even have a well-defined set of criteria by which they would judge whether the experiment was a success or not.
Faced with public outcry after the accident, there were the usual knee-jerk reactions of reverting back to two-way on one stretch of the road, extending the experiment for another two weeks, and claiming that they are indeed watching carefully and will take corrective action. Somehow, this doesn't inspire confidence considering no action was taken for six months.
However, civic organizations are continuing to interact with PMC and apply pressure on them to take into consideration their views that uncontrolled increase of road widths (and correspondingly, vehicle speeds) will result in increased accidents, not to mention inconveniencing pedestrians, cyclists and bus users.