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Old 25th August 2009, 07:32   #1
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Default Parkinson's law of road widening

Parkinson's law states that Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
A corollary for IT geeks - Data expands to fill the space available for storage.
One for householders - The bigger the house you buy, the more is the junk and clutter you accumulate in the house.
And a generalization of this - The demand upon a resource tends to expand to match the supply of the resource.
What started out as a part of a humorous essay turns out to have a very deep meaning and message for humans.
Which leads me to the road widening subject, and why it may be a very bad idea. The thought was reignited by what I have seen in Pune with two adjacent busy roads in the city center being made one ways to essentially form a very large roundabout, to increase traffic speeds and flow. But the idea has been there in my mind for a long time, that space breeds clutter, and I thought it will be a good topic for some fiery discussions here.
My position is that existing roads inside cities ( I am not referring to e ways and highways here, let me say that right away ) should not be widened. In doing that, this is what is lost for ever:
1. The character of the place and with it, the community. Not as in good or bad, but as in the look, smell, feel, ambience etc etc.
2. Cutting of trees. The saying that for a tree cut here, ten trees have been planted on a distant hill is one of the sillier statements I have heard in justification. How is that going to replace the shade that trees confer, in a sun drenched country like India? So many of the lovely tree shaded avenues that Pune had, have given away to wide concreted glare filled roads.
3. Given the way we do these things, trampling upon pedestrian rights. Most senior citizens do not now know how to get to the other side.
And the gain is a short term illusion, as Parkinson's Law kicks in here as well. With the wider roads, more people get their cars to places where it was better not to drive to. More people buy cars bigger than the ones that they really need for such use, now there is a road to use them on. And in no time, everything is back to square one, with no gain, but what is lost, is lost forever. And there are bigger traffic jams, with bigger cars stuck in them.
I am not saying that all that Europeans do is good, but the one thing they have done a lot better than most people is preserve their inner cities. Most of them have been shut off to cars, and that is why these cities have a fantastic ambience, and a sense of history that is still alive. With a lot more of a livable life in them. Because, I must point out even on this forum, there is more to life than food, drink and cars.
My last visit to Bangalore, I was dismayed to see that the city center is going down the same road widening short term solution, by reclaiming the land from the gardens and open spaces that define the city in my mind.
In the longer term, we are going to end up in India with unliveable cities. Or cities that shape people's thinking about each other, and about life, in ways that make me happy that I have fewer years ahead than behind me.
PS: As the thread starter, let me also say right away that the intent is to rope in more than just road widening views into this subject, road widening is just the tip of the iceberg of things that are going haywire in India. So maybe this thread needs to be moved to a more appropriate place.

Last edited by Sawyer : 25th August 2009 at 07:44. Reason: PS
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Old 25th August 2009, 08:53   #2
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Originally Posted by Sawyer View Post
Parkinson's law states that Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
Completely agree to it. Bangalore has all but lost its charm, especially in its old areas which were tree lined avenues. In fact the Bangalore-Mysore Road which is devoid of any tress now was lined with fruit bearing trees and all of them have been butchered for the sake of the 4 lane road which could have been easily built on either sides of the trees with the center lane left for either cars only or cars and LCVs.

Cutting trees is just not excusable, especially the bigger and older ones which are life givers and savers.
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Old 25th August 2009, 08:59   #3
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About the trees - it was the Buddha that said for everyone to plant and nurture a tree to growth for five years as a path to ones spiritual growth. Makes sense the more one thinks about it. Too many of us have become disconnected from nature. We have to learn to live with nature, not dominate it. Something I read just the other day - winning a war with nature will leave you on the losing side.
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Old 25th August 2009, 09:26   #4
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One of the most beautiful stretches in Bangalore was the 4th Main in Jayanagar, starting from south end circle to east end road. It had roughly 100ft of well maintaned greenery on both side of the road, just imagine that. I used go running every day morning on this road in the mid 80s. Even my college (NCJ) was practically on that road.

Now it is being sacrificed for Metro.
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Old 25th August 2009, 09:31   #5
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Now it is being sacrificed for Metro.
If any sacrifice can be said to be still worth it, it would be for cheap mass transit. Still a sacrifice, but not as one sided as the ones for road widening and flyovers.
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Old 25th August 2009, 09:48   #6
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@ Sawyer>> You have hit upon a subject on which books can be written. Roads arent just physical like the ones that we see and use but the same roads have much larger connections to man and his spirit. Reminds me of the mentos add of prehistoric man and his donkey Gaddu.

We dont walk. We dont respect nature. We wantonly destroy everything natural and hope to recreate the magic on our own. Roads are paths we travel upon physically. Symbolically they are also a reflection of our lifestyles, attitudes, cultures and our race.
The Europeans seem to have come full circle and having begun to understand the true significance of roads are trying to undo the folly that we have now gotten addicted to.

And about trees. We hear this often ' Plant a tree'. I ask, do we say ' A woman gave birth to a man' or do we say 'A woman gave birth to a child'.
How can you ' plant a tree'? You can only plant a sapling, which usually dies in a few weeks due to lack of care. When we say' plant a sapling' you realize that it is nothing in significance to the tree we plan to replace.
How we articulate words are important in the public context. I remember the public campaigns by the govt saying' plant a tree'. It sounds ridiculous. They are misleading people.
It takes years from a sapling to a tree and in the meantime the tree that you killed adds to your loss of green cover and the benifits thereof. So consciously, we all ought to stop saying ' plant a tree'. We ought to say 'plant a sapling' . And when we compare the image of a sapling to a tree in your head, then we know where the human race is headed.
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Old 25th August 2009, 10:01   #7
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Originally Posted by jaysmokesleaves View Post
So consciously, we all ought to stop saying ' plant a tree'. We ought to say 'plant a sapling' .
Well said - maybe it should be plant and grow a sapling? Not as elegant I know, but the latter is more important. Any fool can plant one, just as any fool can father a child.
PS: It takes a mother to grow one, usually. Maybe we should have left the ladies in charge all the time.

Last edited by Sawyer : 25th August 2009 at 10:15. Reason: PS
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Old 25th August 2009, 10:29   #8
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Apart from what is lost due to road widening, I don't see what the logic is behind any road widening project at all? Any road that is widened will only funnel the traffic into the narrowest part of the road or the next narrow road and lead to pile up at the next junction. The same thing goes for building all these flyovers. The moment they build some flyover, all they're doing is shifting the traffic jam to the next junction.

Also whenever they widen these roads, they leave all the electricity poles in place, atleast in Bangalore, and this makes the widened road a new unpaid parking spot and leaves it even more narrower.

While on this topic of parknig, if there is one thing that politicians should do about making traffic better, then I think it should be curbing all the illegal roadside parking/stopping. I feel this would have a cascading effect. All these stupid malls which dont allow people to park inside will get low business, forcing all new buildings to follow better building codes. People who desperately want to go to these places will start using public transport. There wont be all these zig-zag driving (to some extant) due to some stupid driver looking for parking space on crowded road.
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Old 25th August 2009, 10:43   #9
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Road widening in India is a joke. Here is how it goes:

A 2 lane road is widened into a 4 lane one. The left most lane is taken over for parking. People at the bus stops stand in the second lane. Buses, therefore, have to halt in the third lane. Ultimately, vehicles are still left with just one lane for driving like they used to earlier with the 2 lane road.
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Old 25th August 2009, 11:30   #10
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And another wonderful engaging topic from Sawyer. Wonder why they didnt plan it out when they first started creating the city. For example in Melbourne, Australia the city planners decided they wanted roads inside the city where a 4 horse driven carriage could turn around without unhitching the horses (which was apparently a big problem in Victorian England and consumed a lot of time). That idea still gives rich dividends since there are now large roads inside the city WHICH HAVE BEEN closed to cars / or made into one way streets. I agree with this. The central city areas have their own charm and cars should not be allowed here. Force everyone to get off at the outskirts or levy stiff fees / parking charges. More roads are certainly not the solution, excellent public transportation which is safe yet comfortable is the need of the day. And it CAN be done. If each city in China - which are as crowded as our Indian cities with as apathic a populace can successfully pull it off, then why cant we?

Sure, allow the cars - but make sure those who can afford them pay for them through their nose. But do so only if you are getting them to their offices / homes in air conditioned comfort with breathing room and not requiring them to hang out of the doors.

Its healthier, pedestrian friendly and it helps reduce pollution.

BTW, the money spent in increasing the roads could be better spent in maintaining them. I have seen countless number of times that traffic slows down to a crawl due to a major speed breaker which is out to break world records or a pothole which looks more like a well. The time / fuel savings here would make up for newer roads.
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Old 25th August 2009, 11:33   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amit View Post
Road widening in India is a joke. Here is how it goes:

A 2 lane road is widened into a 4 lane one. The left most lane is taken over for parking. People at the bus stops stand in the second lane. Buses, therefore, have to halt in the third lane. Ultimately, vehicles are still left with just one lane for driving like they used to earlier with the 2 lane road.


Thank goodness there are others also who have observed this phenomenon.

Buses and autos. Lack of Road-sense in these two are No.1 causes of all traffic woes, and No.2 is absence of traffic discipline in two-wheelers.
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Old 25th August 2009, 11:45   #12
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Well whether roads are widened or not, the chaos will still remain. Why? Because refuse to be educated. Its the tendency to throng at any place, cutting queues, utter disregard for the law and various such things. I feel that if we have a strict system wherein the City Center will be only pedestrian and for public transport, then may be we can reduce the chaos on our roads.

The only city I feel is going somewhere is Delhi which with its Metro has changed the commuting habits of a large section of people.
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Old 25th August 2009, 11:49   #13
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I don't think the people who are responsible to deal with these things are capable and their intentions good.
In Bengaluru, I have seen over the last year, many roads re-layed, footpaths renovated etc., while they also knew that Metro work will start shortly on the same roads. This is also the case with Jayanagar south end road. Same thing is happening on Mysore road, the land army is continuing the work on footpath trimming when the metro work is just happening a few metres away about to mess up everything they are doing.

Its a total waste of tax payer's money. Someone's got to keep doing their job (contractors etc.,), who the hell cares about money.

On outer ring road, the BMTC buses starting taking U-turn by going over the median, the engineers decided to use their brain and dumped waste soil on the median, this took some part of the lane also. The BMTC buses have started going over this now and they have put more soil on it. The lanes on either side are narrow and is scary since there will also be two wheelers standing on it waiting to take a turn.

So when the intent is not good, you can't expect good things to happen.
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Old 25th August 2009, 14:21   #14
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Originally Posted by Takumi-san View Post
Wonder why they didnt plan it out when they first started creating the city.
They did plan it out to the extent envisaged. And in the widths as laid out, there was a certain balance maintained of all other things that are required for a city - as in parking places, open spaces, green spaces, walking paths and so on. If you now go and do a one sided adjustment to the balance like widening the roads, you throw the system out of balance on all the other counts. Because, end of the day, there is a limit to the total system resource that does not allow you to increase everything else to keep the required balance.
What India needs desperately is to stop the move to the existing cities and allow for the growth to not be so lopsided. And, do not spend money on things that will just thrown things even more out of kilter in existing cities, but spend it to cope with what exists, in a manner that benefits the most number of people. Which means mass transit systems. The thing with road widening is that it allows for lots of people to make illegal bucks. In mass transit systems, if this is possible, it is an opportunity available to a select few, the local corporator cannot feed in that trough. So ironically, the road widening that we car drivers crave is also something that the politicos love. Which makes this a much bigger problem to address successfully.
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Old 25th August 2009, 14:46   #15
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Nice topic, Sawyer.

But who said road widening happens for smoother flow of traffic? It happens solely for the purpose of smoothening the flow of money into the contractors' pockets. The drain repair work that was going on on Bannerghatta road complete couple of weeks back and they laid the road on that patch afresh. It took one monsoon shower for huge potholes to appear there.

Road widening inside the city should indeed be the last resort. First and foremost concern should be public transport. Without that, everything else is just a temporary band-aid.

Also, sorry to nitpick but i found the below statement a bit unreal :
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sawyer View Post
More people buy cars bigger than the ones that they really need for such use, now there is a road to use them on.
There are enough broken down and narrow roads in every city that no one will buy a bigger car just because some road has been widened.
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