Strip those Rumblers!

By Ashwin Tombat
24 March 2019 22:58 IST

Amid all the chaos and frustration about the present condition of National Highway (NH) 66, which passes through the length of Goa — on its way from Panvel, near Mumbai, to Kanyakumari — is a huge hope. Once construction is over, there will be a world class four-lane highway along India’s west coast.

For Goa, in particular, there will be an additional bonus in the shape of a six-lane expressway between Mapusa and Margao. All roads crossing the expressway will go through underpasses, allowing traffic to proceed practically non-stop.

When all the work is complete, it should be possible to drive from Mumbai to Goa in just over six hours, and to get from Mapusa to Margao in 45 minutes.

Or will it…?

To be effective, national highways and expressways need to be high speed corridors, with few or no obstructions. That’s not the case with our roads. Every now and then — in fact, more now than then — traffic has to slow down almost to a dead halt on our national highways, thanks to the ubiquitous speed breakers and rumble strips.

They are everywhere — outside schools, colleges, places of worship, junctions where smaller roads meet the highway — even outside the residences of powerful, well-connected individuals, including a certain member of parliament…!

A few years ago, in 2016, the Union Ministry of Transport had asked the state governments to remove all speed breakers from national highways. On the contrary, they seem to have increased.

Where they actually have gone, they have been replaced by rumble strips. These double- and triple-layered speed breaker substitutes are downright dangerous. Besides, they are in flagrant violation of the norms laid down by the Ministry and the Indian Roads Congress (IRC). If a car goes over them at high speed, it could easily lose control and crash. Instead of being a safety measure, they are actually a safety hazard!

Ministry statistics show that in India, 6,672 people lost their lives in 2014, because of accidents caused by potholes and speed breakers.

The IRC Code specifies that speed breakers should be set up on crossroads joining main roads. But the Goa government has mainly been installing rumble strips on the National Highways and main roads instead, thereby choking smooth vehicular movement.

The Code mandates that a speed breaker should be parabolic in shape with a width of 3.5 metres and a height of 10 to 12 cm. Its location should not be more than 5 metres away from the junction or intersection. It should be painted in a ‘V’ shape. A sign board at 20 to 30 metres and another at 10 metres away from the hump should be placed to warn drivers. The signboards and the speed breakers should be glazed with reflective materials to make them visible at night. Solar cat's-eye reflector lights should be installed before the speed breakers.

Most important, speed breakers should be on feeder roads and not on main roads.

IRC norms say that rumble strips are also not to be installed on main roads, because they bring vehicles to a complete halt. This chokes smooth vehicular movement.

Besides, the rumble strips installed on Goa’s main roads and highways do not conform to norms. The rules specify that a rumble strip should be one foot (30cm) wide and 1.5cm to 2cm high. The centre-point to centre-point distance between two rumble strips should be one metre. Not more than 10 should be placed together in a set.

Negotiating rumble strips may also cause health problems, according to orthopaedic surgeons. Negotiating abrupt and sharp objects can cause sprains in a driver’s (or passenger’s) spine, neck and back.

A common argument for speed breakers and rumble strips is that speeding vehicles tend to knock down pedestrians trying to cross the road. It is true that crossing main roads and national highways in Goa is a nightmare for pedestrians. But the solution for this is not speed breakers or rumble strips. What the authorities need to do is to install proper traffic signals at important intersections.

Every problem has a correct solution. If the wrong ‘solution’ is applied, it fails. Plus, it creates a fresh set of new problems, without solving the original one.

Having world class roads is not enough. For them to be effective, one also requires a world class mindset. Unfortunately, making roads is a lot easier than changing minds.

(Originally published on Sunday 17 March 2019, in 'Lokmat')

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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