Honking – time people realised the root causes

@TrafflineMUM started their twitter campaign against honking with the hashtag #HornNoOk and I decided to contribute my bit but 140 characters can be a bit short to express, even as I added some good value to the discussion. My tweets have been aggregated here https://storify.com/rishi75/hornnook (there are some responses to the tweets as well)

I am a close observer of conditions on roads and at junctions where honking can be maximum. As Walking Project I am even more observing keeping the pedestrian aspect in mind. And though I would have my own criticisms of the behaviour of public, I will lay a major blame squarely on 2-3 government authorities of which the clear big one is with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. My root cause analysis says that the single biggest cause for honking is badly designed roads and junctions which create confusion, discomfort and indecisiveness in motorists thus influencing honking behaviour.  Within Mumbai there is a clear difference on how motorists behave on certain roads or stretches of certain roads. There are certain roads in Island city where you will see a definite reduction in honking because the road quality, design and aesthetics influence the behaviour of motorists.

Come to S V Road or an LBS Road or New Link Road in western suburbs or Film City Road, or 90 feet road in Dharavi or Hans Bugra Marg, look at the criminal neglect of these roads by the Road Department of MCGM. Look at how a Marine Drive or a Peddar Road or Veer Nariman Road or J Tata Road or Hazarimal Somani Marg get attention from MCGM.

How roads are designed and engineered and how traffic rules are made and enforced has an incredibly big role in influencing multiple behaviours and responsible for reducing honking on the roads among other effects. If a junction is well designed with 1) clear road markings, stop lines, well designed junctions 2) is not bumpy making vehicles do ad hoc movements, 3) has no dust and gravel on it, 4) is free of flooding and sewage and garbage on it and 5) has a sense of beauty and organisation around it then people are not stressed and feel motivated to do their bit in maintaining the beauty and aesthetic and organisation of the road.

But when the above points are missing – any one or all – which is the case with all the roads in Mumbai then people are continuously under stress and discomfort.  When order breakdowns on the street for any one reason, then it has a cascading effort and everybody is a victim – even some(not all) of those who are honking. Different people have different threshold levels and those with less threshold start honking first. There is cause and effect, honking is the effect not the cause.

MCGM- Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai – is responsible for most of the roads in the city. It is endowed with a budget – almost Rs. 2000 crores per year – which can give us roads likes these

 

What Island City of Mumbai with roads like Ambedkar Road, L J Road Annie Besant Road, Peddar Road and others get is this. These were roads designed by British so they had the compassion to have 3-5 meter footpaths on both sides besides symmetry in the roads, which influences user behaviour.

 

What 64 percent of Mumbai which resides in North West and North East of Mumbai gets is roads like these. These are designed by Indians for whom a few lanes of concrete are all that a road means, no idea of symmetry, no idea that roads are not just used by motor vehicles but also humans, no ideas of some investment in paints, no idea of aesthetics certainly. Only some jingoistic pride of India is the greatest.

If we are saying that people are to blame and the solution is change in peoples behaviour then what will we do as society to change peoples behaviour? Will we in the first place have well designed roads?

A large number of people are willing to take the blame on themselves or blame people in general. As if the solution is change in personal behaviour. Change in personal behaviour is what we have to aim at – that is the end, that is not the beginning in my opinion. When we link everything to bad behaviour of people we end up diverting attention from those who should be working on the real solution to control honking. Who should be working is the complete government apparatus. The government has been created to provide public services, which are needed by everybody but cannot be provided by a single person alone. Everybody needs to move around, that is why government provides roads, local train network, BEST bus network. No one commuter or even a group of commuters can provide that. Government has to provide not just what is visible but more importantly a lot of invisible things.

People taking the blame on their own selves for everything is the most convenient thing that can happen to irresponsible, indifferent and corrupt officials and politicians. And most people are too stupid or cowardly to understand this aspect. These people – numbering in millions – are a boon and godsend for the government framework and a lag on the efforts of activists who are continuously keeping a sharp eye on government functioning and working to improve it. Because so many people will blame themselves and few will understand the role of the government, the government framework is emboldened and can keep defeating the efforts of activists.

 Road design is one aspect, the other is education, awareness and enforcement of rules. Should the Public Health Department of again the MCGM not be engaged in simple campaigns borrowing from common sense?The government through policy can control so many aspects. It can direct motorcycle companies to develop public service campaigns against honking since motorcyclists are the worst offenders on the road today.

And then after MCGM has given superlatively designed roads and also created the public campaigns, the traffic police goes about developing and strictly enforcing rules.

 For a real solution to reducing honking we will have to go a lot deeper than just the usual rhetorical and jaded insights and witty takes.

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