Intervention regarding one-way streets

Jangli Maharaj (JM) road and Fergusson College (FC) road are two important thorough-fares in Pune that house many important educational, commercial and recreational institutions and run approximately parallel to each other. Not surprisingly, these roads are also witness to some heavy traffic conditions. As a result, the city fathers – it is not very clear whether the idea originated at the PMC or the traffic police – proposed early in 2009 that these roads should be turned into one-way streets so that 'traffic can flow smoothly'. The proposal was to let traffic flow only in one direction from the Bal Gandharva junction to Garware bridge along JM road, from Garware bridge to the Ghole road intersection along FC road, and from the FC road intersection to the Bal Gandharva intersection along Ghole road. The thinking behind the idea was to reduce the idle-time spent by traffic on these stretches and to increase their speeds.

Citizen's groups such as Parisar and Pedestrians First working on transportation in Pune expressed their displeasure at the plan as it would result in a) increased mid-block vehicular speeds making it unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists, b) increase the distances to be cycled by cyclists, c) make bus stops further away inconveniencing bus passengers, d) make bus routes longer thus making things even worse for PMPML, e) direct traffic into the quieter residential neighbourhoods between JM and FC roads and f) make even motor vehicle trips longer than before since they would now need to take detours.

As a result of the representations made by the citizens' groups, a joint meeting was held at the PMC office on 24th Feb 2009 with all the stakeholders such as the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic), the Additional Engineers at PMC responsible for roads and traffic, the officer on special duty to handle JNNURM projects and representatives of the NMT cell and civic groups. After hearing the concerns of the civic groups, the city officials accepted some of the shortcomings of implementing a simple one-way scheme. The civic groups also understood the problems faced by the city officials in managing traffic. Based on their discussions, a consensus solution was arrived at which would implement the one-way but also protect the interests of pedestrians, cyclists and bus travellers. The salient features of the consensus solution are:

  • Pedestrian crossings at important junctions would be at a raised level so that traffic automatically slows down. There would also be pedestrian signals at specific locations. The footpaths on both JM and FC roads would be made wider to make walking a more pleasurable experience on these roads that also house gardens, eateries and commercial establishments and hence attract a lot of pedestrian traffic.

  • A segregated cycle track, which would be two-way if possible, would be provided on both roads.

  • A dedicated bus lane would be carved out on both JM and FC roads to make bus journeys that much faster and smoother.

  • Subject to feasibility approval from PMPML, a free circular bus service that would cover JM, FC and Ghole roads would be provided at high frequency. This would decrease the inconvenience caused to bus passengers from re-routing of buses etc.

Architect Prasanna Desai, who works closely with civic groups, has been asked to provide the detailed designs for these roads keeping the above requirements in mind. His firm is currently in the process of creating such designs for different road stretches.

However, one issue of concern is that the PMC has already removed the road dividers (medians) on many stretches of JM and FC roads in anticipation of the one-way scheme. With the rest of the infrastructure not yet in place, the one way scheme has not yet been implemented as of June 2009. Therefore, this is actually causing increased inconvenience to pedestrians as evident in a letter written to the officials by a resident of the locality. Parisar and other civic groups hope that PMC will go ahead with its plans for the one-way streets only after the alternative infrastructure is in place.