BANGALORE: The traffic police move to introduce a separate lane for autos has largely left drivers unhappy since last Friday.
The dedicated lanes have been introduced around Hudson Circle and Queens Circle as an experiment.
Most auto drivers City Express spoke to fail to see any benefit from the lanes.
Auto driver Salman says, "These things appear today and disappear tomorrow. None of it lasts. It would help if they made the same lane on all roads. Two or three won't help."
Raghavendra, treasurer of ARDO—an auto drivers' union—is unsure how the move will help. "Right now, it's just too confusing," he says.
"If you want to regulate traffic by creating dedicated lanes, why not start with BMTC? The buses have specific stops unlike us," he says.
Referring to a similar move in 2006 that failed, he says, "They should have realised this hasn't worked earlier, and it's a mistake to try it again."
Ravi Kumar, who often waits for customers at the pre-paid auto stand on M G Road, jokes that implementing the move will be taxing both for traffic police personnel as well as auto drivers, not to mention passengers who are likely to find it cumbersome.
He says, "We shouldn't try to ape the US. There they have an eight-lane system for major roads, with a specified speed limit for each lane. Here, there aren't too many roads where you could even have two lanes. And what's the point of this if it's not uniform?"
Most of these drivers anticipate difficulties in picking up and dropping pedestrians. "Often, people don't know their exact destination. So, say we have to take a U-turn to go to the opposite side of the road, it'll won't be easy cause we'll have to go to the right lane from the extreme left," Raghavendra complains.
Founder of Peace Autos Anil Shetty claims that he has been getting several calls from distressed commuters. "Passengers of autos too feel that this isn't a good idea—the traffic on these lanes is likely to be much slower than on other, perhaps relatively empty, lanes that autos cannot travel on," he says.
He also feels that the police are usually at a loss on how to deal with them as they could be a rather unruly lot. "But the solution is not to get them off the road. Instead, they should focus on making them safer, installing GPS in them," he suggests.
M Manjunath, a 48-year-old driver and president of Adarsha Auto and Taxi Drivers Union, laments that the width of city roads increased from when he was in Class five and is not hopeful that the move will help ease traffic woes. "Public funds are wasted in implementing new rules like this one, only to be removed by others," he says. So, like Shetty, he too has an alternative solution to offer to keep order among city auto drivers. "Use the same money to reward auto drivers, pick one best auto driver each month through public selection. Then auto drivers will discipline themselves, at least for that money," he adds. Sampangi, another auto driver, however recommends the pilot that is currently on roads around Hudson and Queens circles be shifted to Richmond Road. "That road already has a bus lane and making an auto lane there will help ease the traffic," he says.
Traffic expert M N Sreehari feels that experimenting on roads like MG Road, Kasturba Road or Cubbon Road is insufficient. Why not focus on other busy roads like Avenue Road, BVK Iyengar Road, or the stretch between Maharani's College and KR Circle, where goods vehicles ply, he asks.
"The average speed of vehicles on major roads is between five to six kilometres per hour. On such roads, having another lane dedicated to autos is simply useless," he declares.
The traffic police has received positive feedback from auto drivers, Deputy Commissioner of Police (traffic - east) M N B R Prasad says. "We have implemented it after a study. The lanes stop 50 metre ahead of junctions, allowing auto-rickshaws to merge with the rest of the traffic," he says.
He adds that the traffic police plans to see how the lanes work in the current three road—Kasturba Road, Seshadri Road and Queens Road — before implementing them elsewhere.
"We also have to ensure that the roads we choose don't have too many intersections," explains Prasad.