One way system of traffic regulation is prevalent all over the world and Kolkata is no exception. Some of its old roads and lanes are so narrow that these are not at all suitable for handling traffic from both directions. One-way traffic rule was enforced in Kolkata in 1980 due to increasing traffic pressure and to avoid spiraling traffic snarls. Only electric tramcars were kept outside the purview of the system. With the passage of time, one-way traffic regulation has been extended to include many more city roads in order to unclog the streets for a better flow of traffic. The need for one-way routes to keep the traffic smooth is undeniable but at the same time it does require wide publicity and proper display of traffic signage to ensure unaware motorists do not fall prey to inadvertent violations and pay through their nose. Penalty for traffic violation is expected to increase by five times and hence it is imperative for motorists to keep themselves aware of the traffic rules and regulations, particularly about the existing regulation of one-way. Team WHEELS’ surveyed to find out a few places where one may fall prey while driving.
ABSENCE OF TRAFFIC SIGN BOARDS
Between 7am to 1pm, if you happen to move southward from Ballygunge Circular Road/St Lawrence School through Ritchie Road, the two-way traffic stretch ends at the junction of Palit Street on the north-eastern corner of Maddox Square. No traffic sign board of ‘One-Way’ or ‘No Entry’ exists at the spot where the two-way stretch ends and one-way begins.
For the proper functioning of the one-way system, it is essential to put up ‘One-Way’ or ‘No Entry’ traffic signboards at the designated spots. Study the list of One-Way Traffic Regulation in Kolkata given here and be careful of such spots, otherwise you would end up paying a penalty.
Similarly, according to the one-way traffic list of Kolkata traffic police, Hartford Lane in front of New Market is ‘South to North bound- all 24 hours’. Although there is no ‘One-way’ or ‘No Entry’ sign board on Lindsay Street-Hartford Lane junction, you must avoid entering the insignificant lane from the New Market end. Abdullah, a shop owner on the road says, “I am aware of this being a one-way road, but in absence of any traffic signage, the lane is clogged with traffic from both ends and unauthorized parking throughout the day”.
INCORRECT SIGN BOARD
The situation gets worsened with a wrong signage. For instance, an insignificant traffic sign board of ‘No Entry’ with a handwritten time of ‘2pm–8pm’ instead of the correct ‘1pm – 10 pm’ is put up on a tree at the junction of Ritchie Road and Valmiki Street at the south-east corner of Maddox Square. Even if you belatedly happen to notice the wrong signage, in the morning hours while the traffic moves northward uptil 1pm, you are already deep inside the one-way road from the wrong end. And in such a case there would be just one and only way to avoid the harassment at the intersection of Ritchie Road and Hazra Road – we believe you know it by now!
THE SMALL STRETCHES OF CONFUSION
During the day between 7am to 1pm, the Traffic Marshal at the Ballygunge Circular Road–Ritchie Road intersection in front of David Hare Training College/St Lawrence School keeps a tight vigil. He carefully observes the way you are approaching him from– are you coming out of Paddapukur Road beside David Hare Training College or are you proceeding towards him from the AJC Bose Road side in the north?
In absence of any mention of Ballygunge Circular Road being a one-way even in the One-Way list of Kolkata Police website www.kolkatatrafficpolice.org, we had to scout for the information from Officer-in-charge, East Traffic Guard, Mr. Alok Sanyal.
Mr. Sanyal pointed out that Ballygunge Circular Road from Paddapukur Road (beside David Hare Training College) to AJC Bose Road is one-way – moving north towards AJC Bose Road between 7am to 1pm. This means that a small stretch of the same Ballygunge Circular Road from Paddapukur Road to St Lawrence School, which is 30 metres approximately, is a two-way traffic stretch. Thus, anyone approaching St Lawrence School/Ritchie Road from north by the Ballygunge Circular Road is guilty of violating the traffic regulation.
Now, the above stretch remains a big confusion which you should be careful of. Since there are inlets to Ballygunge Circular Road from Lovelock Street and all housing complexes on the road, in absence of any traffic sign board indicating the one-way, you may come out of any of these places or follow cars moving on the opposite direction in front of the David Hare College – being a two-way. And once you do that, you end up in a real trap and land up with the smiling Traffic Marshal signaling you to pull up by the kerb at the intersection of Ballygunge Circular Road and Ritchie Road. (Refer to diagram 1)
Similarly, a very small stretch between Russel Street and Little Russel Street continues to be a pain for the drivers. Be careful of the one-way stretch which exists between JL Nehru Road (Jeevan Deep end) to Little Russel Street. If you happen to ply on Middleton Street between Camac Street and Little Russel Street between 7am to 1pm, do not ever proceed west towards JL Nehru Road or try and enter Russel Street from Middleton Street – you will be guilty of traffic violation for a distance of only 25 metres in front of the National Insurance building on Middleton Street, being a reversible one-way all day long. Difficult to asses? But not much help seem to be at sight! (Refer to diagram 2)
In certain stretches, the absence of a proper signage at the beginning of the road makes it further difficult for you to negotiate once you enter. For instance, while moving north towards Dalhousie during the second-half of the day between 1pm to 10pm, if you happen to be on the right lane, you cannot take a left turn from the Jawaharlal Nehru Road at the Shakespeare Sarani/Birla Planetarium intersection.
In absence of a proper signage at the Exide crossing on AJC Bose Road, mentioning that the left turn at the other end of the road is barred, one should be cautious about such traps. If you fail to locate the small traffic sign board on the wooden stand at the other end of the Shakespeare Sarani crossing, you had it!
Prasenjit Das, a veteran city motorist, was slapped with section 119 and 177 of MV Act, on taking a left turn from J L Nehru Road towards Victoria Memorial at the Shakespeare Sarani crossing. Prasenjit complained, “In absence of any ‘No Left Turn’ sign board at the entrance of JL Nehru Road, I opted for the right lane to avoid dodging of cars on my left and was forced to pay an unreasonable penalty in front of Birla Planetarium on taking a left turn”. (Refer to diagram 3)
As per the enclosed ‘One-Way’ list of Kolkata Traffic Police compiled by ‘Team WHEELS’, you will observe that there are varied timings. There are one-way routes which are applicable for 24 hours, 15 hours (7am to 10pm) and 6 hours/9 hours reversible (7am to 1pm and reverses between 1pm to 10 pm). These have to be carefully observed in absence of missing traffic sign boards leading to unexpected traffic penalties.
KEEP THE LIST HANDY
In absence of any updated one-way traffic route guide on Kolkata after 2008 by Kolkata Traffic Police, the list compiled and published here in may be kept handy in your car dash board.
On seeking advice on the issues mentioned above, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic), Mr Dilip Bandopadhyay commented, “The Planning and Survey team under the Kolkata Traffic Police do their best to take care of proper road signage at the required areas. New inclusions are also published in the Gazette notification and our official website”. He also added: “we are now-a-days keeping a strict vigil on the signage for uniformity in all areas.”
Given the fact that Kolkata is a city with severe constraints, the traffic condition is one of the best in the country under Kolkata Traffic Police. Unless sustained initiatives are taken by both police and motorists, traffic movement in Kolkata will continue to be taxing for both sides.