Future & heritage, all for a ‘steel’

8,000 people stormed the streets for #steelflyoverbeda, but few lessons were learned. The government’s insistence on steel bridges has been widely decried, with the proposed Minerva to Hudson Circle flyover adding to the collective ire. With over 2,000 cars registered in the city everyday, it’s likely that the flyover will be redundant in no time, a shameful waste of the Rs 138 crore investment. Moreover, heritage sites like Town Hall and Ravindra Kalakshetra are now in danger of demolition by a project that could also kill the revival of the 1791 war memorial, Halasoorina  Hebbagilum dealing the heritage conservation efforts a death blow too, reports Aknisree Karthik.

Srinivas Alavilli, co-founder of Citizens for Bengaluru
When 8000 people stepped out of their comfort zones to form a human chain from Basaveswara statue  to Mekhri circle on October 16, 2016, with a simple message #SteelFlyoverBeda, they said no to that unnecessary steel monster and every other such project that is thrust upon us, spending crores of our money.

When 42,355 people cast their “Beda” ballot and a thousand people sat on a day- long hunger strike at Freedom park, they were saying a big loud “No” to everything that’s wrong with our city’s governance, especially with the projects that are being floated to address traffic congestion.

 More than a year later, the grassroots civic movement that led the #SteelFlyoverBeda, Citizens for Bengaluru (CfB) , is still alive and kicking ,  demanding public transport (#ChukuBukuBeku, #BusBhagyaBeku) and pedestrian rights  (#NadeyaluBiDi) with thousands of people showing up time and again on the streets. If this is not a message to the decision- makers, what is?

The Minerva to Hudson Circle steel flyover is a terrible idea. Not because it is made of steel, but because it is equivalent to applying yet another band aid to a deeper problem. The fact that there is severe traffic congestion on a wide one- way road like J C Road is the clearest indication that road widening and flyovers will result in even more vehicles, not less. The flyover will be a mega failure and the traffic congestion will simply move from point A to B.

Town Hall

Let’s look at sensible solutions and better alternatives before we sign up to throw away Rs 200 crore for yet another project that will cost twice that amount before it becomes a reality. Bottlenecks on JC Road can be addressed with simpler, inexpensive interventions and all that money could be used to buy a 1000 new buses or reduce bus fares.

The BMTC pilot  showed that 43 per cent more people took the bus when airconditioned fares are reduced by 37 per cent .  This could make for a big change as one bus is equivalent to 200 cars on our streets. Every expert says what Bengaluru really needs is buses and more buses along with Metro and Suburban train. We have already set world records on private vehicle ownership and we don’t need to beat our own record by adding more vehicles that will come with the flyover.

That money could be used for footpaths, walk signals and bicycle lanes as today people are afraid to walk and bicyclists are at risk of being hit. Our city needs massive investment in non-motorable transport that will lead to safer streets and lesser pollution.

The  money could also be used to protect our heritage sites instead of destroying what little is left of them. This proposed flyover will ruin the beautiful Town Hall and Ravindra Kalakshtra and could kill the revival of  the 1791 war memorial Halasoorina Hebbagilu.  Do we want to be known as a city of traffic and flyovers or as a dynamic city with a proud heritage ,  beautiful architecture and world class public transport?

It is difficult to imagine that citizens who love Bengaluru will sit idle without challenging this project legally and on the streets. We request the government to scrap it and call for a public consultation.

Flyover will become redundant, why invest?
Ask Dr Ashish Verma, mobility expert and associate professor, Centre for Infrastructure Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning (CiSTUP), IISc, about the planned steel bridge between Minerva Circle and Hudson circle and he has no hesitation in calling it a hardly sustainable, short-term solution to the city’s traffic troubles.

Pointing out that over 2000 cars are registered in Bengaluru every day and the number of two-wheelers  coming out on its roads daily are double that number, he says the flyover will become redundant in a matter of a few months.
“In a matter of months it  will make no difference if you take the flyover or chose to go below it to reach Hudson Circle from Minerva Circle. Investing Rs 138 crore in a project, which will become useless in no time is a foolish move,” he argues.
Dr Verma gives the example of the flyover near C N R Rao Circle, which was intended to ease traffic at Yeshwanthpur junction, but which is itself now heavily congested. The scenario is no different at the flyover on Airport Road, he notes. “ All the time you save by taking the flyover,  you lose when you get stranded in traffic after you come down it at Hebbal while returning to the city from the airport,” he points out.

The only way to reduce  traffic congestion, in his view,  is to improve public transport and extend the Metro Rail. “Building more flyovers will only add to the already existing traffic mess and encourage more private transportation,” he warns.

Dr Ashish Verma, Mobility expert
Considering the rate at which vehicles are  growing in the city, the bridge will be of little use in a few months . When 2,000 cars and nearly 4,000 two-wheelers are added to the existing 65 lakh  vehicles on the roads, how will the flyover help in the long run?

No flyover, be it the one at Yeshwanthpur,  on Airport Road, or any other road, has helped ease traffic. It makes no difference if you take the Yeshwanthpur flyover or go below it via C N R Rao Circle to reach Tumkur Road. Then why should you have a flyover at all?

No matter how quickly you build the flyover or whether it is made of steel or concrete, over a period of time, the flyover will only shift traffic from one place to another and become redundant.

Yes, commuters do save a lot of time travelling on the flyover on Airport Road, but end up in a traffic jam once they come down it at Hebbal. This  will happen at the Minerva Steel bridge too in a few months.

BBMP
Indian Road Congress guidelines recommend  flyovers on stretches carrying 10,000 passenger car units an hour.

Major traffic bottlenecks at Minerva Circle, the J C Road, Bharat Talkies, Town Hall, LIC office, and Halasuru Gate Police Station junctions and  Hudson Circle will be done away once the flyover is built.

A steel flyover is the right choice for a narrow  and high density vehicle corridor like J C Road, especially when there is no alternative road to divert traffic.  Also , construction of a concrete flyover will take years while the steel bridge can be completed in 18 months. Commuters can save 30 minute travel time if the steel flyover becomes a reality

Won’t harm aesthetics of the area: Sampath Raj, Mayor
Q: It seems like the BBMP is obsessed with steel flyovers.
A: For a city like Bengaluru that is struggling to cope with traffic, it’s not sensible to build  concrete flyovers, which will take years to complete.  Steel bridges, on the other  hand, can be built in a short  time without causing any inconvenience to the people.

Q: Were the public and the stakeholders consulted and was there any proper mobility study done?
A: Yes, all those concerned were consulted and a study too was done.

Q: Places of historical significance like the famous Town Hall and Ravindra Kalakshetra are on the stretch of the planned bridge. Will it not harm the aesthetics of the area?
A: No, the project will not affect the aesthetics. Proper care will be taken to ensure that.

Q: Mobility experts say the flyover will become redundant in a few months and you are wasting Rs 184 crore on a project that will be of little use in future.
A: Our study suggests the project is viable. It has more advantages than  disadvantages.

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