Every Bangalorean has a suggestion about traffic

Published : Times of India

Nothing can be more therapeutic for Bangaloreans than talking about traffic. The best part is that every Bangalorean has a suggestion about traffic. The worst part is that everyone’s solution is from his point of convenience. Also most suggestions are aimed at other roadusers to the exclusion of oneself. In a gathering of car owners, there

will be complete unanimity about helmet being made mandatory but serious reservations about seat belts.
When one views statements like discipline autorickshaw drivers, traffic will be smooth; BMTC drivers should be taught a lesson; two-wheeler riders are the real culprits; ban lorry movement in the city since lorry drivers are the most dangerous species in the world; pedestrians are to be blamed for all the accidents; tame maxi-cabs and BPO taxis — one wonders whether any section of the 80 lakh roadusers has been left out to be disciplined. Nothing wrong, though there are two concerns; firstly, the fact that virtually everyone thinks that others need to be disciplined. Secondly, they really overrate the capability of 1,000-odd traffic policemen to discipline 80 lakh roadusers while standing on the roadside, even though as parents we fail to discipline our own children!
Many concerned and committed citizens, including RWAs and NGOs, point out the violators. Good intentions indeed except that there are just too many people wanting to catch others. There are very few people who want to begin such initiatives from their home and neighbourhood. Let us first discipline ourselves, then our neighbourhood and then influence the behaviour of those in the circle of our influence by motivating them towards correct roaduser behaviour.
The most frequently asked question during public interaction forums is as to why policemen appear from nowhere and catch signal jumpers instead of standing visibly at the junctions so that people don’t commit an offence. But why should people jump signal irrespective of whether a policeman is present or not? Secondly, why should we deploy men where technology is present? 70% of our policemen are standing at signals to prevent people from jumping signals, crossing stop lines and causing gridlocks. This is the most inefficient way of using manpower. If the roadusers could be guided by 30,000 traffic signage boards and 330 signal lights, these policemen could be redeployed more productively to assist students in school zones and women and senior citizens in residential areas. But to even think like this is blasphemy at the moment.
Do we see a traffic cop at any junction in New York or Singapore? Who regulates them? Police? No. People regulate themselves with the help of road markings, signals and signage. Those who fail to comply are captured by cameras and dealt with rather harshly with multiple consequences. There has to be a miniature policeman in the minds of all of us just like there is a violator in the hearts of each of us.
Due to stricter technology-driven enforcement, no doubt, a lot more people wait before the stop lines, less people jump signals, still lesser people overspeed on roads or drive under influence of liquor now. But is it a sustainable behavioural change guided by instinct of self-pride andself-preservation that will be passed down the generations? Compliance merely to avoid being fined or reprimanded cannot be long-lasting.
No doubt traffic police will have to wield the stick by stricter enforcement in the form of fines. Simultaneously, more sustainable citizen-driven methods of bringing about attitudinal change will ensure that the city crosses the tipping point beyond which there will be no looking back. That is when we won’t aim to convert Bangalore into Singapore and instead take pride in being in Bangalore and be a good Bangalorean.

(The writer is additional commissioner of police, traffic)

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