Like every year,lakhs of festival shoppers who descend on Laxmi Road during Diwali period will have to face the mortification of being caught in long traffic snarls which is a dampener on their festival mood. While the police say they would do their best to ensure that there are minimum traffic hassles for commuters,at the same time the police are not ready to accept a suggestion moved by commuter organisations to ban entry of cars on Laxmi Road during the peak evening hours during the two-week Diwali period. In the same breath,the police are appealing to the commuters to avoid bringing their personal vehicles to Laxmi Road during the Diwali period.
The suggestion to ban cars on Laxmi Road during Diwali period will be difficult to implement, said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Vishwas Pandhare on Sunday,summarily rejecting any such idea of ban on cars. Pandhare said the move will face opposition from the shopkeepers and traders. The main argument is that the people bring cash in cars and it wont be advisable for them to park their cars away far off Laxmi Road, he said. Also,Pandhare said if cars are parked on other roads,it will create pressure on other roads.
Debunking the police contention,Prashant Inamdar,convenor of Pedestrians First said,The police have been adopting negative attitude every Diwali which has spelled nightmare for commuters year after year. The shopkeepers do not face traffic nightmare as they come to their shops early in the morning and leave at late night when there is no traffic jams, he said.
Inamdar said the police should remember that people do not bring cash,but use their debit or credit cards. Pandhare said on key roads like Laxmi Road,Fergusson College Road and M G Road they would be putting additional manpower in place to avoid traffic jams and halting of cars on roads. We would appeal to festival shoppers to avoid bringing their cars on Laxmi Road unless it is very imperative. People should park their personal vehicles in parking lots only, he said.
Inamdar said cars are the main reasons behind serious traffic problem on Laxmi Road during Diwali period. Cars cannot go to the curbside due to parking of two wheelers on one side and walkway on the other. Hence cars halt on the road itself to drop off occupants or pick them up later. This blocks a large part of the carriageway on the narrow congested road causing traffic holdups, he said.
A bigger menace,said Inamdar,is that of cars parked on the road despite there being No parking for cars on Laxmi Road. Cars are also blatantly parked in the walkway for pedestrians. The parked car hinders passage for pedestrians forcing them to walk on the carriageway of road. It also causes problems for traffic. Movement of buses is adversely affected.
Sujit Patwardhan of Parisar,The idea to ban cars on Laxmi Road should be implemented to reduce traffic chaos. But this is a small part of a larger issue. All effort should be made to decongest the core city area from the growing vehicular population.
Stressing on non-motorised vehicles and better connectivity of PMPML services,Patwardhan said,There should be a long-term goal to reduce the entry of personal vehicles on core city area like the Laxmi Road. There are several ways in which this could be done. Our ultimate objective should be to make the core area more liveable,pollution-free and attractive to visitors, he said,adding that restrictions on entry of personal vehicles cars on Laxmi Road should be implemented earnestly.
Inamdar said the number of cars on Laxmi Road is less as compared to the total number of vehicles. However,the nuisance caused by cars is very high and severely impacts majority of road users with pedestrians and bus commuters being worst hit,activists said.
Hence the only solution is to ban cars on the busy part of Laxmi Road during the high pedestrian density and peak traffic period. The ban should be imposed from Belbaug chowk to Umbrya Ganapati chowk 5 pm to 9 pm for two weeks, he said.