About round-abouts

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 04 Oct 2018 10:15:31



Vijay Phanshikar,


There were times for us children in the city more than fifty years ago to go round and round the large or small traffic islands speeding on our bicycles. The traffic in Nagpur of those good, old days was much less in density and much more orderly in discipline and management. Our parents never felt it unsafe to allow us children to go on those fun-filled circumambulatory mini-adventures mostly on Sunday afternoons.

And on evenings, when traffic swirled around, countless Nagpurians would sit in the small greenery on the round-abouts (traffic islands) and enjoy the feeling that they were right at the centre of a city on the move. And there were so many of round-abouts at city squares in those days, small and big. There were statues, too, standing tall in the centre of those ‘circles’ as many people called those isles. And at the foot of those tall figures from history, people sat in groups, discussing things, complaining about in-laws and
neighbours, almost oblivious to the traffic but also keeping a sly eye on the circulating movement.

What wonderful were those times! How wonderfully laid back was life then! Everybody did his or her work. Everybody made sense of his or her own life as well. Yet, everybody also had the time and inclination and peace of mind to connect with others. Traffic rotaries or round-abouts or islands were among the spots where that connecting took place.

But times have changed. Now, no child can ever think of the circulating trips at any round-about or “traffic rotaries” in other words. For, all the day round, traffic is very heavy, and vastly without much discipline, and no one can ever think of allowing any child to test his or her sense of small adventure. And of course, people have almost forgotten that once upon a time, they spent parts of their evenings on the traffic round-abouts.

And there are reasons for this change. The status of traffic
round-abouts has changed. The authorities have removed many round-abouts altogether. Only a few remain now, with a problematic traffic making things terribly difficult for everybody. What used to be once upon a time a great traffic convenience, is now proving to be a great impediment -- the traffic islands or round-abouts at intersections with multiple roads. With traffic having become much heavier than we could imagine, the three round-abouts in the city have become spots of much irritation -- one at the Medical College Square, the other at Ram Nagar Square, and the third one in Laxmi Nagar at what is known as Aath Rasta Chowk. The one in Laxmi Nagar may be a little less crowded, but the round-abouts at Medical College Square and Ram Nagar Square are proving to be major irritants for the people though the Police or the town-planning authorities do not seem to have woken up to the issue’s seriousness.

Time, however, may not be far when they would remove the round-abouts at the Medical College Square and Ram Nagar Square, as they have done in some other places including the Reserve Bank Square or the Manas Square near the Ganesh Mandir Tekadi, Laxmi Bhavan Square, the Variety Square, Shankar Nagar Square and Bajaj Nagar Square. They may not touch the Aath Rasta Chowk
round-about, simply because of the intrinsic beauty of the place, thanks to fine maintenance provided by some or the other NGO, mostly Rotary Clubs.

Stand at any of the two traffic round-abouts -- Ram Nagar or Medical College squares -- for an hour at any time of the day or evening, and you would realise how the places have changed for the worse. Traffic seems flowing endlessly, and carelessly, and rather shamelessly, and also mindlessly, and chaotically.

At Ram Nagar, seven approach roads funnel people into the square. Even as a statue of great warrior Baji Prabhu Deshpande stands in the centre, with a sword each in both hands, traffic swirls around, in waves that never ebb, in a chaos that must be terrifying even for the god in the temple in one corner. Small brushes of vehicles are commonplace here and people have long stopped getting off their vehicles and fighting with one another. Scratches and dents on the cars are now part of our mental acceptance of our own helplessness, our inability to conduct ourselves collectively in a disciplined manner when in traffic. This round-about was slightly smaller earlier than its present size. The authorities chose to expand it thinking that the larger size would make the traffic in a more disciplined flow.

At the Medical College Square, six approaches pour people into the central area. At any given moment, there at least are close to a thousand people on various modes of transport circulating there. The scene gets frenetic when ambulances from the Government Medical College and Hospital rush in and out, giving people certain sense of scare. This round-about, too, was small earlier. Then the authorities expanded it, though to not much avail.

It must be admitted that traffic at both these squares is often chaotic. Very rarely do we see traffic policemen in both these places. Of course, for the past four years, traffic cops arrive on the scene at Ram Nagar and bang their canes on the ground or the auto-rickshaws and shout orders for all the people to move away -- because Chief Minister Mr. Devendra Fadnavis has intended to come for darshan at the Hanuman Temple at the square. But then, this happens only occasionally. Otherwise, it is business as usual.
But apparently, times are changing once more and the authorities may have to think of removing these round-abouts altogether to ease the traffic. The statue of Baji Prabhu Deshpande may be moved to a suitable corner with a lot of fanfare, of course. To some, the idea may sound unappealing. But, if they think calmly, they may realise the wisdom in removing the ‘circles’.

The question is not just of two round-abouts. The question is our inability to conduct ourselves with a sense of discipline on roads. For, the biggest trouble at round-abouts is that there can be no traffic signals at such multi-road intersections with round-abouts still intact.