Traffic on roads may consist of pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, streetcars, buses and other conveyances, either singly or together, while using the public way for purposes of travel. Traffic laws are the laws which govern traffic and regulate vehicles, while rules of the road are both the laws and the informal rules that may have developed over time to facilitate the orderly and timely flow of traffic.
Events which disrupt the flow and may cause traffic to degenerate into a disorganized mess include road construction, collisions, and debris in the roadway. On particularly busy freeways, a minor disruption may persist in a phenomenon known as traffic waves. A complete breakdown of organization may result in traffic congestion and gridlock. Simulations of organized traffic frequently involve queuing theory, stochastic processes and equations of mathematical physics applied to traffic flow.
Mumbai – the sixth biggest megacity in the world with a metropolitan population of around 20 million people – is notorious for its chaotic traffic. Swarms of black and yellow taxis and auto-rickshaws jostle with smoke-belching buses and battered Maruti-Suzukis in a cacophony of honking horns and revving engines. No one takes the slightest notice of road markings; there is no congestion charging or bus rapid transit; no bus lanes or bike lanes.
While private cars account for just 1.6% of journeys made in the city, their number has swelled 55% over the past seven years to 2.3m. There is a tradition of newspaper vendors, milkmen and dabbawalas – so-called “livelihood cyclists” – who depend on sturdy, black locally made bikes to go about their business, but, as the UCL’s Andrew Harris argues, transport policy is firmly geared towards the car. Cycling is seen by many as a low-status way of getting around.
Traffic Jam is a major problem in Colaba area. With thousands of people visiting the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, especially during tourist season, the residents of Colaba are highly inconvenienced. There is severe traffic congestion around the quadrangle: from Regal Cinema to the Gateway of India, to the Radio Club, and the Hanuman Mandir.
Residents, along with the ALM, My Dream Colaba, took the issue to the concerned authorities in an effort to resolve it and also came up with a few solutions. The traffic woes of the island city seem to grow manifold with each passing day. A drive down Fashion Street to Colaba and all the way to Cuffe Parade brings forth the startling fact of there being only one traffic police chowki manning that entire stretch.
One of the reasons offered by the authorities is that the traffic police are understaffed. Besides manpower, setting up a traffic police chowki also requires space. Though the residents have been demanding a chowki for some time, the traffic authority has offered only stopgap solutions. Ghanshyam Hegde, secretary of My Dream Colaba, says, “During peak hours, the situation is very bad, especially from Regal Cinema to the main gate of Sassoon Docks. Although the distance is less than a kilometre, it takes at least 30-40 minutes to cross the area. It is ridiculous. We had even written to the traffic commissioner about it. Initially, action had been taken and three to four constables had been stationed there—this improved the situation. But they left after a week or so and things deteriorated again.”
Residents say that although there are laws to resolve such issues, traffic constables and other law enforcing agents, except beat marshals, are seldom seen in the area. That too, once the beat marshals leave, things go haywire once again.
Two-way roads during peak season
Colaba resident Manjeet Kriplani said, “The problem has doubled with the authorities concretising some of the roads in the area during peak tourist season. With tourists flocking to see the Taj Mahal Palace hotel and the Gateway of India, the area sees almost two lakh visitors daily during the peak season. This leads to very bad traffic snarls. The continuous honking by vehicles also adds to the noise pollution of this area.”
One of the main reasons behind the traffic problem during the peak season is that the roads are one-way. Residents feel that if the roads are made two-way for two months (during peak season), it will help solve the problem to a large extent. “Also, most of the times, the big tourist buses cause traffic congestion. I do not understand when there is a BEST bus plying between CST and Gateway, why do we need separate tourist buses. They just add to the chaos and aggravate the situation.”
Proactive authorities needed. Residents also feel that the authorities of the area need to be more proactive. If any construction work is slated to begin, the authorities should talk to the residents and the shopkeepers in the area and take their inputs on how to manage the traffic.
“The authorities should have issued a public notice before beginning to concretise the roads during the peak season. They can also try to come up with alternative solutions to address the traffic problem. This area is supposed to be a tourist spot, hence it should look beautiful and organised, instead it is exactly the opposite. What kind of image are we presenting to the tourists, who visit this place? Also, the Victorias or the ghoda gaadis should be regularised or be minimalistic because they add considerably to the traffic woes,” said Bella Shah, another Colaba resident.
Nandita Bedi says, “We should also give cops their due. Most of the times they do a really good job. The only reason why they find it difficult to manage the traffic is because they are understaffed. What we can do is we can introduce the concept of a traffic warden. A traffic warden is a resident of the area, who helps the traffic policemen in managing the traffic. This has already been implemented in several parts of Mumbai, then why not here? These people can be trained by the traffic police and later when these wardens are needed, they can help the traffic police.”
Another solution, which the residents have come up with, is to make a pedestrian plaza during the weekend. It will not only make the area less noisy but also make it beautiful and peaceful. “A pedestrian plaza will make the whole area look more beautiful. Provisions can be made for senior citizens to walk and the cars belonging to the residents of this area can have stickers on them, so that they can move in and out of this area without being hassled,” said Manjeet Kriplani.
Mr “Puran Doshi” secretary of Congress(I) & Ex Corporator, believes that the real beauty of Colaba is in traffic free roads. According to him, Colaba is a tourist spot & so traffic is a major issue in Colaba. In his view a proper management of traffic is needed to solve the chaos created at Colaba. He ensures that if he becomes the Corporator of Colaba he will ensure that all these issues get solved efficiently