Lane marking is one of the most basic street furniture but does not get its due in most cities in India. The general belief is that since people do not observe lane discipline, it is a waste of money. But actually if we use bright, durable and luminous paint for marking lanes, it can act as an important and critical beginning towards traffic discipline. With a rapid rise in car ownership in our cities, this is the least that various government agencies can do. Mumbai Environmental Social Network (MESN) conducted some interesting experiments and found that it is not just lane marking but the introduction of ‘lane compelling’ at some selected traffic-dense locations in Mumbai which is the need of the hour too. MESN opines that it is possible to prove to the motorists that following lane discipline can actually improve the overall thruput of vehicles.
MESN conducted two experiments in Mumbai based on a disarmingly simple but very effective concept developed by a young traffic designer, Rahul Dandekar. One was at Haji Ali where a bus lane was marked on the wider part of the road (on the extreme left lane out of six lanes from Atria mall to Haji Ali) before it becomes narrow at the mouth of Pedder Road (barely 2.5 lanes). Although the lane was not sufficiently publicised or supervised in any strict manner, the results were quite satisfactory. While total peak-hour, peak-direction volume of cars remained unchanged at 2900, the peak hour thruput of buses increased from 58 to 84 (i.e. by 30%). This increase becomes much more pronounced if it is translated into the number of passengers. The passengers using cars remained more or less constant (actually the number increased by 3% which is not statistically significant) at 5013 but those using the bus increased from 2610 to 3780. In other words, there is an increase of 17% or more passengers without any investment – it is achieved simply through lane discipline! Unfortunately, due to extensive repairs on this road, the traffic police could not manage this lane on a consistent basis.
In Pune and Delhi, when BRTS was introduced about two years ago, there was an uproar. The argument was that it led to an increase in traffic congestion for the private cars as they could not use the lane carved out for the buses. This was perhaps due to inadequate communication between the policy makers and the end users. The administration could not drive home the point that BRTS was, in fact, ferrying an increased number of passengers and it was needed to enforce traffic discipline.
Lane compelling through Plastic Bollards
Another experiment in testing the effectiveness of lane compelling was done at Mahim Causeway with the help of traffic police in 2009. This was carried out in the evening rush hours before the commissioning of sea link. The picture below on the left side shows the traffic movement when there was no lane marking. The picture on the right shows the use of plastic bollards which makes it physically difficult to violate the lanes. When we counted the thruput under both the situations, we found out that the thruput with four orderly lanes was at least 15% higher than the disorderly five lanes. It is smoother and slower with reduced “stop and start” driving which significantly reduces driving tension and the pollution through exhaust.
Lane marking to split traffic at a multi arm junction – Kala Nagar
Mumbai has more than 40 flyovers. Almost all the flyovers are parallel to the high volume expressway which experiences a high volume of traffic. It is, however, interesting to note that the traffic under the flyover is actually equal to or more than that on the flyovers. The sketch on the left (below) shows the layout of the space under the Kala Nagar flyover on Western Express Highway in Mumbai. It is the first of 15 flyovers that covers 55% of the total length of 26kms. And there is no lane marking at all at this high volume junction (total vehicular traffic exceeding 29000 PCUs per peak hour). We have proposed very bright and strong marking of all the lanes and segregation of traffic going to Bandra-Kurla Complex from these eastern parts of the city. This will calm down the traffic, improve safety and lead to higher thruput by discouraging the chaotic overtaking behaviour which is observed in almost 10% of all drivers. We believe that the expenditure on high quality, durable, luminous and bright paint as well as embedded plastic reflectors is a negligible price to pay for safety at such high volume junctions. This will certainly help traffic police to do their job better. If lane marking is supported by instruction signage in advance and stricter fining, perhaps through video cameras rather than physical intervention, it can make a great difference to the calming down of extremely dangerous, chaotic and deafening traffic. It is important that at least at such junctions with multiple arms, we should not only stop at lane marking but also work towards “lane compelling” to arrive at disciplined traffic in a relentless manner.
How to reduce parking violations at Bus Stops via markings on the road
One of the basic rules governing traffic prevents parking of vehicles within 15m of both sides of a bus stop. This rule is critical in a city like Mumbai where several buses using many routes stop every hour at many bus stops. This rule should be modified to prevent parking within 25m on each side from the center of bus stops at which more than 30 buses stop every hour. There must be more than hundred bus stops with high density bus service in Mumbai. Currently, a small metal signboard with the instruction – “No parking” – is used at the bus stops. But many vehicle owners or drivers conveniently ignore such signs and park buses right at the bus stop and also just before or after the left turns where too parking is prohibited.
As can be seen from the above pictures, illegal parking at the bus stops is quite common. It leads to bus drivers parking the buses right in the middle lane with passengers standing on the road. This makes a complete mockery of basic traffic discipline. We have now become accustomed to this phenomenon – it does not affect us any more. Violation of traffic discipline is dangerous. It is difficult to change this habit especially when the number of cars is rapidly increasing and neither the municipal corporation nor the traffic police seems to be in a position to implement orderly behaviour by drivers of cars, trucks and buses.
It is necessary to make a beginning in the reverse direction through painting on the road at the bus stops indicating that no parking is permitted on the marked area which will facilitate discipline enforcement! In fact, it is essential that at all ‘pay-n-park’ sites, every parking space should be marked, numbered and accounted for. At the same time, we should use road markings at all key locations such as turns and bus stops and introduce double fine for parking at such places! We cannot allow free and careless parking on important arteries and parking on both sides (free and permitted) in almost all side lanes. With more cars and no increase in road space, things will only get worse, if we economise on painting on the road prohibiting parking. We must first begin with marking, then launch a strong communication campaign and then introduce a strong compliance measure. It is time we stop economising on this vital effort. As the legendary Penalosa observed: “When we don’t expect the municipality to provide a wardrobe for our clothes and shoes, why should we expect free and unrestricted parking on road for our personal cars”? We also need to mark where “even stopping is not allowed” by double red lines alongside footpath (or painting kerb stone on the footpath red). Where only halt is allowed, it should be marked by a single red line within six inches of the footpath. This can be done where traffic – especially of buses – is high and where particularly bad parking behaviour has become the norm.