The Easy Way Out

Delhi traffic police has decided that they would replace the traffic signals in Dwarka with roundabouts, 8 to 10 m is diameter. The reason provided is that there are too many accidents at these traffic signals because people jump the traffic signals. The roundabouts would force the drivers to slow down and go around and hence reduce accidents. I am sure some traffic expert would have advised the police to implement this revolutionary idea.

Traffic in Delhi is chaotic at best. Adhering to speed limits, following lanes and using indicators before turning are as foreign to drivers in Delhi as the “Taushiro” language. “Might is right” and the biggest vehicle with the loudest horn has the right of way irrespective of the direction it is coming from. Anyone who has driven around the Teen Murti Circle in Lutyen’s Delhi between five thirty and seven in the evening knows that roundabouts, irrespective of size are the best recipe for a traffic gridlock in this city. This is the case when the circle is manned and controlled by Traffic Police.

Roundabouts look good, and allow smooth flow of traffic when the traffic density is less and the traffic is disciplined. Not in situations where every driver is attempting to drive over the next one to reach his/ her destination.

Mumbai in the late 90s had a roundabout at Haji Ali. This was a site of a perpetual traffic jam and one of the most dreaded crossings in the City. This roundabout was replaced with traffic signals and the traffic flow is smooth at this site.

Presently traffic in Dwarka is smooth, roads are relatively less crowded and people tend to overspeed. One does not need some great imagination to visualise what will happen at traffic intersections (not designed to have roundabouts) when they are converted to roundabouts and are not manned by traffic police. The smooth flow of traffic will be interrupted every few hundred meters leading to a perpetual tailback.

The psychology behind the above mentioned idea emanates from a Hindi saying – Na rahega baans na bajegi bansuri – there would be no bamboo (to make flutes) and hence no one will play the flute. So, if there is no traffic signal no one will jump a signal thus relieving the police of its responsibility to enforce traffic rules. Further, when there is a perpetual tailback, traffic will crawl and hence there would be no major accidents. Incidentally, in Delhi, scraping cars while attempting to turn at a roundabout,  is a way of life and is not considered as an accident.

I understand that the role of the traffic police is to smoothen the flow of traffic in the city and not create hurdles for it. Also, the problem of drivers jumping traffic signals cannot be solved by removing the signals but through enforcement.

The ideal solution for the problem would be manning of traffic signals and ruthless enforcement of traffic rules so that all drivers adhere to the speed limits, respect the traffic signals and drive in their respective lanes. However, this would require effort on part of the authorities, which is the harder way out. The suggested solution is a typical example of trying to find the easiest way out of a problem. 

Cdr Rajesh Sinha (Retd)'s profile on LinkedIn