With Over 2,000 Lives Lost In Road Crashes In 5 Year, Noida Needs Better Planning For Road Safety

A mix of better infrastructure planning, stricter enforcement of rules and an improved behavioural change among the public could be the solution to Noida's perennial trouble of traffic, experts believe. Violation of traffic rules, congestion on roads due to vehicles and accidents have remained for years a major issue for the people of Noida, an up and rising city in Uttar Pradesh's Gautam Buddh Nagar bordering the national capital. The district has recorded 4,933 road crashes since January 2015 till October 31, 2019 in which 2,026 people lost their lives and another 3,811 suffered injuries, several of them life altering, according to an official data.

Last year, 964 road crashes were recorded till October 31 in which 407 people were killed and 736 injured, data stated. The figures for November and December were yet to be prepared, officials said, adding that a large number of these deaths took place on expressways. However, road violation challans by the Noida Traffic Police saw a substantial rise, from 5,70,908 in 2018 to 6,99,708 in 2019 (January to December).

The UP government had in June notified increased penalties for violations, including driving vehicles without a seat belt or riding a two-wheeler without a helmet. A Noida Traffic Police data showed the number of challans issued for these two offences coming down in the second half of 2019. There were 1,39,812 challans for not wearing helmets or seat belt between January and June, and 1,18,481 from July to December, it showed.

Hospitals said around 60 per cent of the road accident cases have patients from two-wheelers, even as they suggested that helmet-less riding was rampant. "We get 50 to 60 cases on an average every month. The mortality rate is 100 per cent incase riders do not wear helmets, about 50 per cent in case they wear low quality helmets," said Dr.

Ashutosh Niranjan, medical superintendent and surgeon at Sharda Hospital, one of the key private hospitals 24x7 trauma services in the region. Incase of four wheelers, he suggested not putting on seat belt could be fatal. "There is a need for riders and drivers to wear helmets, seat belts, drive on designated lanes, control speed and obey traffic rules to be safe," Niranjan suggested.

Transport Department officials shared the opinion and suggested "enforcement from within" as a possible measure to tackle challenges of road safety. "We carry out awareness campaigns in schools and colleges, we can inculcate habits of road safety in children and youngsters. There is a problem with the casual approach of grownups towards road safety," Transport Officer (Enforcement) Himesh Tiwari said.

"If we expect services and facilities to be at par with Singapore or any other developed country, we also need to have a sense of obeying traffic rules at par with them," he said. The district, which has a population of over 25 lakh and more than seven lakh registered vehicles, including four lakh private two wheelers, enforcement has also to be done technically and using latest technology. City residents blamed improper road designs, less adherence to traffic rules and lack of public transport for the woes.

"There are no measures for pedestrians. Like no free footpath and not even sufficient foot-over bridges to help people cross fast moving lanes. There are people with less sense of road traffic and that should be improved.

The Traffic Police is also less strict as compared to Delhi, where rule compliance is much higher," said Amit Gupta, a software engineer by profession. Vishnu Saini, a civil engineer involved in construction of some key highways in India, said road junctions are poorly designed with improper approach lanes, while pedestrians and cyclists are not given priority. "There is no safe movement allowed (separate lanes or markings) for pedestrians and cyclists.

Inadequate traffic personnel and no strict lane driving measures in place," he said. He also stressed the need for road calming measures like rumble strips and traffic blinkers at entry and exit points of expressways, which are accident prone areas, and highlighted lane markings and directions signs missing on roads. Town planners said a lot of Noida's trouble began in the 2000s when the city started growing vertically and haphazardly after authorities permitted increased floor area ratio (FAR), paving the way for high-rise apartments which ultimately put more pressure on roads that were not designed for the future.

"The planning has been lacking here. When we look at other countries like Singapore, they too have a dense population but there they first plan roads, sewer lines and public transport and only then allow settlement," Dikshu C. Kukreja, a Harvard-trained town planner, said.

"With 30,000 people now living in an area instead of 10,000, the effects would show on roads, more congestion and accidents," he said. On a possible solution, Kukreja said improving public transport can only help ease this situation. "You cannot expand a road three times or come up with roads one above the other.

The only solution is providing public transport while ensuring last mile connectivity," he opined. 

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