| Autos stray outside the lane designated for them at Ultadanga
|Three-wheelers violate the stop-line rule at Sovabazar
|Autos clog Aurobindo Sarani, near the Hatibagan crossing
|An auto picks up a passenger on a zebra crossing at Sovabazar
On December 1, auto drivers had assaulted cops who had tried to stop them from waiting at the Aurobindo Sarani-CR Avenue crossing, near Sovabazar Metro station, to pick up passengers. More than 10 days have passed since then but police have not been able to bridge the gap between road rules and reality on the stretch. Metro found three-wheelers on the Jorabagan-Ultadanga and Ahiritola-Ultadanga routes are still making life difficult for drivers of all other vehicles and pedestrians.
Line of no control
Rule: No vehicle should cross the stop line at a red light.
Penalty: Rs 100
Reality: The autos lead a pack of vehicles, including buses and cars, that cross the stop line every time the traffic signal turns red. With rows of autos standing on the zebra crossing, pedestrians find it almost impossible to reach the other side of the road.
Voice: “The driver of an auto standing behind a car will keep honking till the driver of the car is forced to cross the stop line and make way for the auto to stand right in front,” said Sushmit Rakshit, a motorcyclist who is regular on the stretch.
“I have seen auto drivers get off their vehicles and abuse drivers who do not cross the stop line,” he added.
Rule: The autos can park only at designated terminuses. They cannot stop at intersections.
Reality: Autos stop even in the middle of the road to pick up passengers. The vehicles behind are forced to wait.
Cops have marked lanes for autos on both flanks of Ultadanga Main Road near the Ultadanga crossing. Almost half the width of the Sovabazar-bound flank under the Ultadanga footbridge has been reserved for autos.
The three-wheelers rarely remain within the lanes earmarked for them. One of the reasons is lack of space with almost 1,200 autos plying on the two routes. Autos on routes along VIP Road and Salt Lake also park at Ultadanga.
Outside Sovabazar station, autos continue to wait for passengers, clogging the Aurobindo Sarani-CR Avenue crossing.
Voice: “Empty autos occupy the lanes designated for three-wheelers while those with passengers ply down the middle of the road. They do not hesitate to stray into the wrong lane even in front of cops,” said Ananda Sen, who regularly commutes from Ultadanga to Khanna.
Rule: An auto can carry a maximum of four passengers. No one should sit to the right of the driver.
Penalty: Rs 2,000. Auto drivers are less prone to violating this rule compared with others since the fine is relatively steep.
Reality: A drive from Ultadanga crossing to Jorabagan revealed that many autos carried five passengers. Some carried six, including three passengers in front.
Two passengers are sometimes made to sit to the left of the driver to fool the traffic sergeant on duty.
Voice: “It is not possible to monitor all the autos. If we find a three-wheeler carrying more than four passengers, we penalise the driver,” claimed a traffic sergeant.
Rule: Changing lanes frequently and racing each other are not allowed.
Penalty: Rs 100
Reality: At every opportunity, autos swerve and squeeze through spaces between vehicles. It is impossible to find an auto that does not change lanes every few seconds.
Voice: “I was recently travelling in my friend’s two-month-old car when an auto changing lanes at high speed grazed against the car. When we stopped the auto driver, he shrugged his shoulder, let out a volley of choicest abuses and drove away,” said Arghya Mookherjee, a Shyambazar resident.
“The only way autos can be made to follow rules is by slapping hefty fines on them,” said a senior police officer.
Deputy commissioner (traffic) Dilip Bandopadhyay said: “We register cases against autos for violating rules. The number of rule violations by three-wheelers is almost equal to violations by all other vehicles.”
How can autos be reined in? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org