Monday, August 16, 2010

Roads are Caving in City But Cycle Tracks Works Starts Leading to Jams

Ongoing streetscaping work for the Commonwealth Games has made driving on the main Desh Bandhu Gupta (DBG) Road and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (SPM) Marg a nightmare for motorists as jams have become a constant feature due to bad planning and shoddy implementation of construction work. Despite strong opposition by the traffic police, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is constructing cycle tracks on the narrow roads, thereby shrinking space available for traffic. On SPM Marg, all left turns have been blocked as part of the new design defeating Delhi government’s aim of making as many stretches signal free as possible. Malba and other construction material carelessly dumped around has aggravated the situation.

On SPM Marg, the narrow road has shrunk further due to construction of cycle tracks. Furthermore, the design is such that all free left turns have been blocked with bollards and green spaces have been created at the islands. The vehicles turning left now have to wait along with the other vehicles at the main traffic signals, making the waiting time longer for all. ‘‘It used to take just five minutes to cross the road but now it takes about an hour. When left turns are being made free all over and signals are being removed, why are we moving back in time here?’’ asked Sanjay Bhargava, general secretary of Chandni Chowk traders’ association.

The cycle tracks constructed recently by the MCD have been encroached by dhabas and unauthorized parking. Though the main road, which leads to Old Delhi Railway Station, is frequented by cycle-rickshaws, even these seldom use the cycle tracks due to problems of gradient and continuity.

Even at DBG Road, one lane on either side of the main road has been taken over for construction of pavements and cycle tracks. In addition, cars parked along the road and malba and other construction material lying around has further reduced space for traffic to move. Since DBG Road is an important link between west, north Delhi and central Delhi, the heavy volume of vehicles crossing by have no space left. ‘‘It takes me over one hour just to cross 2-3 kilometers on the stretch. Cars move in one line and the entire road has been dug up,’’ said Krishna Prakash, who works at Jhandewalan.

Since the space for cycle tracks was earlier being used by vehicles for parking, the traffic police now fear that parking of vehicles will shift to one lane on the new road with reduced width, further shrinking road space. The contention of the cops is that ensuring that cycle tracks remain free of encroachment is a tough task in Delhi. ‘‘It is tough to ensure that the cycle tracks remain clear at all times. They end up eating into road space and serve little purpose as they are taken over for parking, tehbazari, etc,’’ said a traffic police officer.

MCD officials, on the other hand, contended that the project has got all the required approvals. ‘‘The streetscaping project for DBG Marg has been discussed and approved at the highest levels where police and traffic police were also present. If they had a problem with the project, the issue should have been raised then. There is no point in bringing all this up at this stage when the project is nearing completion,’’ said a MCD spokesperson.