Road widening – road to nowehere ?
Unnecessary and useless destruction !
The next time you're on the road at peak traffic time observe this. There'll be a wannabe Michael Schumacher
who'll take off like a rocket at the signal, and you'll meet up with him at the next signal. You'll most likely meet up
with him at every signal over the next 10 km.
Why does this happen, even though he's driving faster than you ? This is because of the 'Schumi-Bang effect', a
scientific phenomenon caused by the interaction between Schumi's vehicle and Bangalore's roads. Here's the ex-
When traffic signals are close to each other, your average speed depends on how long you stop at a signal rather
than on how fast you travel between signals. On the average stretch of Bangalore Road, traveling at (an illegal) 60
kmph, it takes you 1 minute to travel the 1 km. between signals, then you wait up to 3 more minutes at the signal.
I commute to work by bicycle. In an extreme example of the Schumi-Bang effect, I often keep abreast of a Schumi
at every signal almost the whole distance from my office to my home. At peak traffic time it takes me 1 hour from
home to office by car, and it takes me the same 1 hour on my cycle. At every signal the cars and motorbikes bikes
reach before me and wait, and I eventually draw abreast of them.
Wider roads are the only solution, right ?
Widening a road enables you to travel faster between signals. Widening a single lane road to a double lane road,
for example, would double the speed between signals. This, however, would only double the wait at the next
The problem is not the speed between signals. It is the wait at the signals. The solution therefore is to reduce or
eliminate the waiting time at signals.
We have living proof of this in Bangalore.
Sankey Rd. between the Golf Club and Mehkri Circle was notorious for traffic jams. When the Cauvery junction
underpass was built, the problem disappeared, even while Sankey Road was being widened and reduced to a
Hosur Road beyond the Silk Board was widened to 3 lanes. The traffic congestion should have disappeared, but it
did not. On Bellary Road to the new airport, again, there’s a traffic pile-up at every intersection.
The problem in each case is not the road width, it is the intersections.
Sankey Road reduced to single lane during construction, near Hotel Meridien on Sankey Rd.
Showing no congestion at 6 PM, peak traffic hour, on a working day.
How do we avoid stops at intersections ?
Option 1 – Coordinated signals
These are a series of signals that work in such a way that vehicles can proceed through a continuous series of
green lights. Signals at various intersections on a stretch of road are coordinated by a central controller, talking to
each other rather than operating independent of each other. So as you reach each signal it turns green.
In modern coordinated signals traffic lights are coordinated across multiple main roads in real time to deal with
changing traffic patterns. Video cameras, or sensors buried in the pavement can be used to monitor traffic patterns.
Option 2 – Underpasses or overbridges
We know what these are, and how they can help. Underpasses are of course preferable to overbridges in terms of
aesthetics - there is no ugly concrete sticking up in the air.
Coordinated signals are the better solution, and must be used as the preferred option wherever possible. They
require no extra construction and the resultant destruction of trees and buildings.
Such options cost a fraction of what road widening costs, both in monetary terms and in terms of the destruction of
homes, businesses and trees.
There’s no need to destroy our city by road widening
Sankey Road has now been widened. A beautiful line of trees has been cut down on either side of the road, the
High Point police station has been destroyed, the road has eaten into the golf course on one side and the
properties on the other side. We've also similarly destroyed roads like Race Course Road and Bellary Road, and
are in the process of destroying many more.
All completely unnecessary. The problem was not the road width, and the solution was not widening.
Let’s use the existing road space efficiently, before thinking of increasing the road space.