|Dev and Raima Sen at the police function to mark the close of Road Safety Week
on Friday. Picture by Sanjoy Chattapadhyaya
The city police commissioner on Friday invited schools and students to come up with “innovative ideas” to help solve one of Calcutta’s biggest traffic problems: the chaos on the roads at the start and close of school every day.
Anyone who has driven through AJC Bose Road or Park Circus or passed through Ballygunge between 8 and 8.30 in the morning would immediately know what it means.
Traffic moves at a snail’s pace, if at all, as hundreds of students get off vehicles in front of their schools and guardians follow them as far as they can for a goodbye kiss or wave.
If you are not one among those parents and need to reach your destination quickly, you better not be caught in that chaos.
“Traffic management in this city is serious business…. We would like to get innovative ideas from all, including schoolteachers and students, on ways to improve traffic in their respective areas,” police commissioner Surajit Kar Purkayastha said at the closing ceremony of Road Safety Week.
“It could be about parking in front of schools or using cars intelligently to pick up and drop students. We are open to receiving suggestions and ideas round the year,” Kar Purkayastha, who was earlier deputy commissioner of traffic police in Calcutta, said.
The chaos can largely be blamed on poor planning. The city’s best schools are all located within a small belt: from Calcutta Boys in the north to Modern High in the south, Don Bosco in the east to Loreto House in the west.
There are also the two La Martiniere schools, two other Loretos, St. Xavier’s, Mahadevi Birla, Birla High, Sushila Birla Girls’, St. James’, Pratt Memorial, Frank Anthony, Ashok Hall and Apeejay, to name a few. Most of these schools start between 7.30am and 8.30am.
There are several other pockets in the city where the same problem arises at different hours of the day, like Ballygunge Place or the Rashbehari connector.
In the US and the UK, a city is broken into zones to ensure proper distribution of public utilities.
Zoning, or classifying different areas of a city according to land use, simplifies traffic management.
The importance of proper zoning was underscored closer home after the erstwhile Left Front government allotted Sourav Ganguly a 63.04-cottah plot in Salt Lake’s CA block in 2009 to build a six-storey school.
Residents of the block protested, saying that there were already two schools and a third would add to the congestion. In May 2011, a Supreme Court bench cancelled the allotment.
Police officers said managing morning traffic around the La Martiniere schools and Modern High was a nightmare. “The entire stretch of AJC Bose Road, Gurusaday Road, Sarat Bose Road, Theatre Road, Loudon Street and Rawdon Street gets choked,” an officer said.
Many schools suggested restrictions on non-school cars. “Empty taxis should be barred for certain hours to decongest the zone,” said Sunirmal Chakravarthi, principal of La Martiniere for Boys.
Parents contribute to the problem by refusing to pool their cars. “A student who is used to coming to school in a Merc would not agree to share a smaller car with others,” said a teacher of a south Calcutta school.
Devi Kar, director of Modern High, said it would help if the police were stricter. Terence Ireland, principal of St. James’, suggested that U-turns within a few metres of the school be banned.
WHAT SCHOOLS WANT
All schools: Parents must pool cars
La Martiniere for Boys: Stop empty cabs from entering Loudon Street during start and finish of school.
If the police can bring engineering experts from outside the city to study the problem.
Modern High School for Girls: Don’t allow cars to wait for long and introduce fines
Apeejay School Park Street: Ban parking on both sides and remove
Mahadevi Birla: Don’t allow parents to park cars and bikes haphazardly outside school
St. James’ School: Don’t allow U-turn
How can the traffic mess near schools be solved? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org