If you want to know how dangerous it is while driving in Bangalore, take a drive to the Commissariat Road in front of Garuda Mall. And this threat is the making of the traffic police department itself.
When you approach Garuda Mall from Bangalore Central, you will be shocked to realise that, if you want to proceed straight, you are suddenly ushered into a ‘Keep Right’ domain that exists in the US rather than the ‘Keep Left’ in most Commonwealth countries, including India.
Now here’s the dangerous part: If you are coming on to Commissariat Road from any of the side roads in Ashoknagar, and you are not aware of the ‘Keep Right’ traffic there, you might be staring into the face of death. You may be looking to your right, expecting vehicles to come from there, but the traffic will actually approach from your left and may well mow you down.
The traffic police have given this a fancy term— ‘Contraflow’. But this is in violation of Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, 1949, to which India is a signatory, stating that traffic in the country would adhere to a ‘Keep Left’ format.
Article 9(1) of the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic states: “All vehicular traffic proceeding in the same direction on any road shall keep to the same side of the road, which shall be uniform in each country for all roads. Domestic regulations concerning one-way traffic shall not be affected.”
Commissariat Road is not the only road where contraflow traffic is enforced. It also exists on Dhanvantri Road (which leads to Platform Road and then evolves into Sampige Road when it enters Malleswaram). In fact, contraflow traffic on Dhanvantri Road at Krishna Flour Mill Junction has already claimed the lives of an elderly couple some years ago when they were returning after dropping their children to the City Railway Station.
A bus which was speeding on the ‘Keep Right’ traffic mowed them down when the rider reached the junction, unaware of the ‘Keep Right’ traffic there.
No funds, more danger
Shockingly, when questioned why the contraflow traffic needs to be done on Commissariat Road, additional commissioner of police (Traffic) MA Saleem blamed it on civic works on Magrath Road adjacent to Garuda Mall. Incidentally, the BBMP works on that road have been stalled due to lack of funds to see the works to their completion. This means that the contraflow traffic will be in force until the civic works are completed—only to continue to fox motorists and pedestrians; actually putting their lives in danger.
But there are no civic works to blame for contraflow to continue on Dhanvantri Road. Police officials have no answers to that. But if you visit the spot, you will realise that the contraflow there is for the convenience of BMTC buses to reach Subhashnagar bus stand by the easiest and quickest route.
Signs don't help
Additional commissioner of police (Traffic) MA Saleem said warning boards have been put up at a distance of 50 metres interval from Bangalore Central Mall on Commissariat Road itself. But motorists find it difficult to read it when they move in heavy traffic to get to the Garuda Mall junction. As far as Dhanvantri Road is concerned, there are no signboards to forewarn the motorists.
A senior traffic police official said: “We cannot do anything now as there was no planning when the roads were laid. But this contraflow keeps the police a little relieved as there is heavy flow of traffic at the junctions.”
The official’s comment demonstrates that the traffic police department gives preference to the relief of their own personnel over the safety of the motorists, or even the pedestrians who are unaware of the ‘Keep Right’ traffic that is sprung at them.
In fact, the traffic police, too, are aware of the dangers of enforcing contra flow traffic on some roads for whatever reasons. On District Office Road, connecting Corporation Circle with KG Road, the contra flow traffic was withdrawn after several complaints from the citizens about the demerits and the dangers of having such traffic movement there, according to transportation, infrastructure and engineering consultant MN Sreehari, who is also a traffic advisor to the state government.
Who cares about safety?
According to transportation, infrastructure and engineering consultant MN Sreehari, who is also a traffic advisor to the state government, policemen must be deployed where there is contraflow in traffic to ensure that the motorists know that traffic ahead would come in from ‘Keep Right’ lanes. He stressed on the importance of completing civic and infrastructure works so that suddenly changed rules—like contraflow being enforced— do not remain for long periods of time to confuse the motorists and pedestrians. Mostly importantly, drivers need to keep their eyes peeled while driving, he stressed.