CSE releases the assessment of road accidents and accident hotspots; presents findings of its safety audit; puts forth an action plan
- Deadly tally: About 16 deaths and 58 road injures per hour in India; share of fatal accidents in the total is up from 18 per cent in 2003 to 25 in 2012
- Delhi records an average of five road accident deaths per day – four of these are of pedestrians and two-wheeler riders. Every week, two cyclists and one car rider dies in Delhi
- The worst accident hotspots are near flyovers and junctions
- Cities are designing roads to increase speed of motor vehicles; neglect infrastructure and rights of walkers, cyclists and public transport users
- If road safety is compromised, cities cannot increase the share of sustainable modes such as walk, cycle and public transport for clean air and public health
BeyondHeadlines News Desk
These are part of a set of latest assessments of road accident risk and accident hotspots in Delhi, released by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) here today. The assessments indicate that despite the nominal reduction in total number of accidents over the last two decades, the share of fatal road accidents have increased phenomenally as Indian cities are giving more importance to high speed roads for vehicles – and not to ensuring safe access for all, say CSE researchers.
CSE released its analysis at a workshop titled ‘Our Safe Right to Way – Addressing safety and accessibility in Indian cities’.
Tragic statistics are piling up and several recent gruesome incidents have sent shock waves, necessitating immediate intervention for zero tolerance. The untimely death of the rural development minister Gopinath Munde in a road accident was a grim reminder of the dangerous trend in the city. Even children going to school are not spared – a young Lineshya and her cardiologist father were crushed to death by a speeding bus in Gurgaon.
The brunt of this harsh fate falls on the very large number of people cycling and walking on the city’s roads, as well as those who use public transport.
Sunita Narain, director general, CSE — who herself has recently recovered from a serious cycling accident – says: “Unsafe roads are a warning against the goals of sustainable mobility practices. Walk, cycle, and public transport will not work if people are not safe, and are injured or die while traveling.”
Agrees Anumita Roychowdhury, CSE’s executive director, research and advocacy and head of the team that did these assessments: “If any other cause was responsible for so many deaths in Indian cities, it would have led to emergency measures. Neither the rich and powerful nor the poor can escape the fury of our killer roads.”
She adds: “Our assessment has become necessary at a time when Delhi and other cities are trying to increase their share of public transport along with walking and cycling with the aim of getting clean air, protecting public health, and reducing fuel guzzling and climate impacts.”
Road injuries and fatalities add to the burden of death and disease from motorisation: The recent estimates of Global Burden of Disease (GBD) has changed the way health impacts of motorisation are conventionally understood, by including deaths and illnesses from road accidents as well as air pollution within its ambit. The GBD report ranks road injuries as the world’s eighth leading cause of death and the number one killer of young people aged 15 to 24. If deaths due to road injuries and air pollution from vehicles are combined, then they exceed the tally from HIV, tuberculosis or malaria. The World Health Organization (WHO) now classifies disability, unproductive life years, and premature deaths related to road injuries as a significant health impact of motorisation.
Metro cities record very high rates, but numbers are increasing in smaller cities as well: Highly motorised cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Bengaluru top the list with the highest numbers of injuries and deaths as recorded by the Union ministry of road transport and highways. Mumbai has the highest number of all types of accidents, while Delhi records largest number of fatal accidents among all cities. Studies now indicate that smaller cities that have newly built highways, show increasing vehicle conflict and accident risks — Lucknow, Vadodara and Agra are some examples.
Delhi tops: Delhi ranks the highest in terms of fatal accidents and in number of pedestrians and cyclists falling victim to road crashes. The total number of accidents in 2013 was 9 per cent higher than the 2012 level. The ministry’s Road Accidents in India 2012 shows that on an average, about five road accident deaths occur every day, which includes two pedestrians and two two-wheeler riders. Every week, two cyclists and one car rider dies in Delhi. In 2014 (till the month of May), road accidents had claimed 325 lives during the night and 332 lives in the day time. Violation of rules is rampant – with 329,000 cases of signal jumps, over 14,000 cases of drunken driving and 45,158 cases of overspeeding being reported. Chennai, which follows Delhi in road accident deaths, reports 25 per cent less fatalities.
Young and productive group at serious risk: Nationally, the young population (till 24 years) constitutes 40 per cent of the victims, other than motor vehicle drivers. In 2012, about 5,879 children in the age group 0-14 years and about 26,709 young adults in the age group 15-24 years were victims of road accidents. The most affected victims other than drivers are those in their most productive phase of life – 25-65 years. As much as 53 per cent of the victims fall in this bracket. The economic, societal and emotional cost of this is enormous.
Walkers and cyclists most vulnerable: Globally, walkers and cyclists together make up a quarter of the road injury and death victims. In India, the national database on pedestrians and cyclists is very poor, but data from individual cities shows very high risk. In Delhi, the share of pedestrians falling victims to road crashes is as high as 44 per cent – the highest among key metro cities. According to an IIT study, 51 per cent of the 8,503 fatalities which occurred in road crashes in Delhi during 2006 to 2009 were pedestrians. Among motorised vehicles, two-wheelers are the most vulnerable.
Evidence from AIIMS Trauma Centre points to grievous public health impact: At the trauma centre of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, which can handle only 15,000 cases, almost 60,000 are reported every year, with a 10 per cent annual increase. Approximately 5,000 cases require major operations. Of the total cases reported for injuries, head injuries account for 40 per cent while orthopedic and torso injuries are 30 per cent. In cases of brain injuries, there is only 40 per cent chance of recovery. Most of the pedestrians who are brought to the trauma centre belong to the lower socio-economic strata.
CSE reviews 128 accident hotspots identified by the traffic police in Delhi: The Delhi Traffic Police identifies the city’s top accident prone zones as areas recording three or more fatal accidents or 10 or more total accidents within a 500-meter diameter. The review of these spots indicates:
- Maximum accident hotspots are in the north-west district, followed by the south-west and west districts: The key spots include Narela, Punjabi Bagh, Civil Lines, Kalyanpuri , Shahdara , Model Town, Kalkaji, Lajpat Nagar and Ashok Vihar. Together, these areas record 60 per cent of the total accidents in Delhi. Other prominent hotspots include Vasant Vihar, Rohini, Hauz Khas, Sarita Vihar, Patel Nagar, Greater Kailash, Delhi Cantt, R K Puram etc.
- Killer roads: A majority of the accidents occur on signal-free arterial roads. Only eight roads, including the Ring Road, Outer Ring Road, GT Karnal Road, Rohtak Road, GT Road, NH-24, NH-8 and Mathura Road, account for about three-fourth of the total accidents in Delhi. Of the total accidents recorded on accident-prone roads, 33 per cent are fatal. Nearly 20 per cent of all accidents occur on the Ring Road; Outer Ring Road and GTK Road have 14 and 12 per cent, respectively.
- Most accidents occur near flyovers, crossings and signal-free, high speed corridors: Of the total hotspots identified near flyovers, about 27 per cent are on the Ring Road, 17 per cent on GTK Road, 13 on Outer Ring Road and 6 per cent on Mathura Road. It is important to note that the eight key arterial roads that record nearly 75 per cent of all deaths, have been designed as high speed corridors. These roads have received the maximum attention and resources from the government – including widening for six-eight lanes, flyovers to allow seamless travel for vehicles, subway crossings and foot overbridges to prevent people from crossing on the surface and obstructing traffic flow, and closing of medians to allow vehicles to move uninterrupted. These features have turned these arterial roads into death traps. Especially deadly are the places where the flyovers begin, where traffic merges in full speed. These include the flyovers at Dhaula Kuan, AIIMS, Sarita Vihar, Mahipalpur, Rajokri, Akshardham, Dabri, ITO/IP and Moti Bagh.
- Accident hotspots do not show up in Lutyens’ Delhi: Central Delhi — built around rotary, largely four-lane roads and with nearly no flyovers — shows the least number of accidents and virtually no accident hotspots. Its design has a calming effect. Even though the rotaries are of older design and have a scope for further improvement to reduce vehicle friction and safer passage for cyclists, this has proved to be more preventive than the high speed corridors.
- Maximum accidents occur at dead of night and early morning when speed is high: As much as 50 per cent of accidents occur at night, and 33 per cent between 6 PM and 12 AM.
- High number of accident hotspots near bus and Metro stations – compromise safe access to public transport: It is very disturbing that the access paths to public transport nodes including bus depots, bus stations, bus terminals and Metro stations show high incidence of accidents. Some of the notorious stretches are near ISBT gate, Anand Vihar ISBT, Pashchim Vihar Metro Station, Uttam Nagar Metro Station, Jahangirpuri bus stand, etc. Ten bus stops are listed as accident spots – these account for 8 per cent of the total accidents, and include the Kashmere Gate and Wazirpur stops. Among the Metro stations, those at Mansarovar Park, Uttam Nagar and Madipur are the major accident spots. This is a serious matter in view of the fact that lack of safety in accessing public transport can compromise public transport usage.
- High pedestrian accidents: In 2013, fifty six accident-prone zones for pedestrian victims were identified by the traffic police; 21 such hotspots have been identified for cyclist accidents. Areas near public transport nodes, major markets and low income areas indicate an increase in pedestrian accidents: in some locations, the numbers have increased by 1.3 to four times during 2012 and 2013. Some key accident spots especially vulnerable for pedestrians include Karkari More, Nigam Bodh Ghat, Britannia Chowk and Faiz Road Crossing; for cyclists, the stretches include Azadpur Subzi Mandi, Dharampura Red Light, Bhalswa Chowk and Deepali Chowk. According to the Street Design Guideline document, 40 per cent of the total road length of Delhi has NO sidewalks. Cycle lanes are almost negligible.
- More areas show increase in bicycle accidents in 2013 compared to 2012: Twelve accident-prone zones were identified by the traffic police for cyclist victims in 2012; in 2013, newer locations have come up. The zones especially vulnerable for cyclists include Azadpur Sabzi Mandi, Shyamlal College, Nizamuddin Yamuna Bridge, Mahipalpur Flyover and Bhalsawa Chowk. This is a very serious concern as Delhi has the highest number of cyclists in the country and second largest number of walkers — in stretches like Uttam Nagar and Subhash Nagar on Shivaji Marg, and Jyoti Nagar East on Loni Road, cycles and cycle rickshaws outnumber cars.
- Notorious crossings: About 24 per cent of the total accidents happen at crossings/junctions. Accidents are happening on roads without properly designed junctions, or where provisions for crossings were missing. According to police data, 26 junctions are listed as accident hotspots. A CSE re-analysis of all accident spots and proximity showed that crossing and junction-related problems could be contributing to 30 per cent of the total accidents. Some key hotspots are Burari Chowk, Seelampur T-point and Ashram Chowk which recorded 25, 25 and 22 accidents, respectively. Other hotspots are Faiz Road Crossing, Punjabi Bagh Chowk, Azadpur Chowk, Britannia Chowk, Okhla Estate Round About and Mukand Pur Chowk.
- Urban villages do not generate motorised traffic but suffer the most: Poor infrastructure near low income neighbourhoods increases modal conflict and friction considerably. Some of the notorious accident hotspots are near Ali Village, Shakarpur Chungi etc, with a total share of 10 per cent.
- Foot overbridges and subways, the adjunct of car-centric design, do not work: There is a growing tendency to remove people from the road while making signal-free corridors – by building foot overbridges and subways for crossing. But as the traffic police’s own review of foot overbridges indicates, this has actually increased the safety risk as people still prefer to cross on roads. This forced eviction of people from the surface may help lower accident rates (as has been the case near the Anand Vihar Bus Station), but will also limit sustainable modes like walking, cycling and public transport usage. Such an approach is not the way forward.
The survey has covered approximately 27 km. Broadly, eight criteria have been taken into account – these include engineering and design features of footpaths and cycle tracks; crossings- intersections and mid-sections; encroachments/impediments on footpaths; design features for transits/bus stops/shelters; amenities for road users; conflict and friction between different modes; safety features like lighting, dead width, public spaces etc; and aesthetics and environment.
- The ugliest of all: The ranking of all these roads shows that on all the parameters, all the roads score from very poor to poor. None of the corridors appears in average, good, or best classes.
- Footpaths available in around 55 per cent of the total length surveyed. Only 10 per cent of the total has cycle tracks:Width of a footpath according to the guidelines is a minimum 1.8 metre – and this is available only on 10-15 per cent of the total road stretch. The kerb height is unacceptable along all the roads, except at some locations along Vikas Marg. Only five-10 per cent of the total length has a kerb height equivalent to standards (150 mm). None of the corridors have a continuous footpath. Only the Noida Link Road and Vikas Marg have reasonable length of cycle tracks. The Mathura road and Mehrauli-Badarpur road have cycle tracks only for 300-400 metre. Only 10 per cent of the total length has cycle tracks; worse, most are not accessible.
- Poor public transport accessibility: Accessibility to public transport nodes is poor in almost all the corridors. Bus stops are located on footpaths, as there is no clear multi-function zone. Height of the base of the bus stop does not match with the base of the bus, so people tend to wait on the street; buses stop in the middle of the roads; and roads with more public transport users have less bus stops. Buses also tend to stop at the foot of flyovers making it unsafe for bus users.
- Road design impedes peoples’ access: None of the intersections is designed with raised table-top crossings; none have pelican signals for convenient crossings. None of the corridors have mid-section crossing. Crossings are given either in the form of foot overbridges or subways; medians are usually blocked with high railings. Only 15 per cent of the total corridor studied has visible zebra crossings. An opinion survey shows 90 per cent of walkers and cyclists prefer crossing on the ground as foot overbridges and subways increase the distance and are inconvenient. On the other hand, foot overbridges and subways with ramps attract motorised vehicles for crossing.
- Poor environmental conditions, amenities and aesthetics: All the corridors score poor on this count. Few toilets can be seen along the Mehrauli-Badarpur road, Noida Link Road and Vikas Marg, but these remain locked or are unusable. There are no facilities for women. Neither is there a provision for shaded footpaths. Walking and cycling infrastructure and bus stops are ill-maintained, unclean, and badly lighted (making them unsafe in the night). Footpaths all along the segments are along the boundary walls with setbacks, making them unsafe and vulnerable to crime. Parking on footpaths is a menace – especially along Mathura road, Mehrauli-Badarpur road and Vikas Marg. Around 50 per cent of each of these roads’ footpaths are encroached by parking.
- Difficult to negotiate roads with any form of disability: The infrastructure in all the corridors is not designed keeping the disable in mind. All the corridors score zero in this aspect. Disabled people cannot access footpaths that are higher than 300 mm and without ramps. As there are no raised table-top crossings and the medians are blocked, this makes them vulnerable to accidents while crossing. Most bus stops do not have ramps or tactile paving. Tactile paving that exists along some portions of the Ring Road, Mathura road and Vikas Marg do not lead the user anywhere as they are put in a haphazardly manner. There is no provision of auditory signals on any corridor.
- CSE has demonstrated that by changing design and reorganising street activities, roads can be transformed into zero-accident zones: For example, on the Mehrauli-Badarpur road, redesign and reorganisation can free up nearly 1,600-1,700 sq m of road space that can be used to create pedestrian plazas and organise hawking and vending, while improving overall accessibility and safety.
- The National Urban Transport Policy is weak on safety of road users, especially pedestrians and cyclists.
- The National Road Safety Policy, 2010 is an ineffective policy. For its implementation, the government has to set up a National Road Safety Board and a National Road Safety Fund to finance road activities.
- The National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board Bill 2010 is pending in Parliament. This has proposed a National Road Safety Traffic Management Board to oversee road safety and traffic management in India.
- The Motor Vehicles Act 1988 has rules that are oriented towards motorists’ safety and to prevent accidents (speed limits, dangerous driving, use of protective gears etc). Its weak enforcement hampers policy implementation; fines and penalties are minimal.
- The safety of disabled-friendly road users is not ensured.
- Most of the IPC provisions for causing deaths due to road accidents are bailable.
- Guidelines for pedestrian facilities and street design exist, but these are voluntary.
- The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 empowers state governments to make rules that prohibit the use of footpaths or pavements by motor vehicles. This also cautions against danger, injury to the public, etc. This is rarely enforced.
- The Rules of the Road Regulations, 1989 include right of way for pedestrians at uncontrolled pedestrian crossings.
- Municipal bye-laws to protect footpaths
- Street Vendors Act and Rules provide for designated space for vendors.
According to the WHO, the middle-income countries have the highest annual road traffic fatality rate at 20.1 per lakh population; the rate is 18.3 per lakh population in low-income countries. The lowest fatality rate is in high-income countries at 8.7 per lakh population. But several high-income countries have much less numbers of cyclists and pedestrians than India and other developing nations.
Sweden’s Vision Zero road safety policy: Sweden prioritises safety over speed — low urban speed-limits, pedestrian zones and barriers to separate cars from bikes are the key measures. It has proposed a speed limit of 30 km/hour, built 1,500 km of “2+1” roads where each lane of traffic takes turns to use a middle lane for overtaking – this has saved 145 lives. It has built 12,600 safer crossings along with strict policing that have halved the number of pedestrian deaths over the past five years. It has also integrated the guidelines for traffic safety and crime prevention under the Traffic for an Attractive City (TRAST). Swedish police guidelines include safety audit guidelines.
The Netherlands’ Sustainable Safety vision: It has led to implementation of effective road safety measures. Infrastructure measures have reduced the number of fatalities by 30 per cent.
Europe: Slowing traffic down, separation of vulnerable people from motorised traffic, initiating awareness campaigns, and more pedestrian crossings and fines for violation of pedestrian spaces are some of the measures in place. In the EU, fines are prescribed by law, either as part of a Road Traffic Act, or as subject of a special legislative provision. Some countries allow police officers to decide the actual amount of the fine according to the specificity of the traffic situation. In Finland, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland, the amount of the fine is a function of the net income of the offender.
Paris: The city mayor has announced a maximum speed limit of 30 km/hour on all streets of the city.
UK: Careless driving can be fined up to UK £100 and points are added on to the licence. A proposal from the department of transport restricts motorists to a speed of 15 mph, a fine of UK £100, and three penalty points for overtaking cyclists. This is for a few cities where cycle flows are high.
Germany: A computerised point system for traffic violations is in place. One can incur up to three points if the offence endangers traffic safety. Once there are eight demerit points, the licence is revoked. To get it back, the motorist needs to pass a physical and mental status examination.
California: A new traffic law will be implemented from September 2014. It aims to reduce high rates of bicycle accidents, injuries and fatalities across the state. Motorists will be required to keep at least a three-feet distance from bicycle riders as they pass them on the road.
Oman: The Royal Oman Police has introduced speed cameras — both stationery and hidden — to monitor roads. Stricter punitive measures against those who jump signals have been introduced and all these have contributed in a reduction in the number of road fatalities.
Other cities: In London, the Road Traffic Reduction Act allows authorities to reduce traffic levels or their rate of growth in targeted areas for lowering congestion and improving air quality. San Francisco has enforced a Better Street Policy. New York City is promoting pedestrian infrastructure. In Auckland, the Land Transport (Road Users) Rule stops motorists from stopping or parking on a footpath and pedestrians have to be given right of the way.
The way forward: Reclaim streets for the people
Says Anumita: “Unfortunately, the obsession with seamless, signal-free travel for motorised vehicles through flyovers, expressways and elevated ways is disrupting the direct shortest routes of walkers and cyclists and increasing distances and travel time for them. Car parking and other encroachments are taking away space from people, exposing them to unsafe conditions. This can adversely affect public transport usage. CSE is concerned that road engineering interventions once made cannot be changed easily — but it can permanently decide the design of the network and influence travel choices and safety of the people.”
- Introduce high penalty and stringent enforcement of current laws: The Motor Vehicles Act and Rules focus on vehicle safety, seatbelt and helmet requirements, and speeding and drunk-driving laws. This can work effectively only with strong deterrence and stringent penalties. Reform the Motor Vehicles Act and Rules for stringent penalty, reduce speed limit in cities to 30 km/hour and set targets to achieve zero fatalities.
- Improve traffic surveillance and technology aids.
- Introduce a comprehensive road safety act addressing safety of all road users, including vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and two-wheeler riders.
- Notify street design guidelines under the Delhi Development Act to make it mandatory. For national action, notify under the Central Motor Vehicles Act and Rules.
- Mandate implementation of pedestrian and cycling plans and pre- and post-construction road safety audits of roads. Public transport plans must include pedestrian plans for multimodal integration.
- Make encroachment (parking, gardens etc) on footpaths punishable under law.
- Implement measures to reduce traffic volumes and introduce traffic calming measures – especially on highways/arterials within a city.