Road Safety

Death of pedestrian activist turns spotlight on Bangalore's dangerous roads

Husband of researcher killed by bus wants greater accountability for errant motorists.

For the last few years, Kadambari Badami had been fighting to make India’s streets safer for pedestrians as part of a project on improving the governance of Indian cities. On March 2, as the 37-year-old was driving through Bangalore to her parents’ home, a bus allegedly travelling on the wrong side of the road ploughed into her Reva. By the time her husband – who was in his own car barely 10 minutes behind her – reached the scene, Badami was already dead.

“My wife was an urban planner by profession. She worked extensively to make India’s roads safer,” said her husband, Mayur Vamanan, a director of consulting at an analytics firm. “Given that that’s what she stood for, it feels like a real shame that this is what happened.”

For a city that has spent crores on upgrading its traffic infrastructure, integrating technology into its public transport system and training bus drivers, fatal traffic accidents like Badami's are still all too common. Last year, the Bangalore City Traffic Police recorded 737 fatal incidents, which resulted in the deaths of 771 people. As of February, it had already registered 124 accidents that caused the deaths of 127 people.

Badami – a researcher working on pedestrian safety at the NGO Transparent Chennai – was travelling down her side of the road on an undivided two-lane highway when the bus, heading the other way, attempted to overtake three vehicles at the same time, Vamanan said. “She tried to get out of the way, but, being in a Reva, she didn’t really have a chance,” he said.

Although an FIR has been lodged, Vamanan is afraid that deaths like this are dismissed as being inevitable in a city choked with vehicles, rather than as a consequence of Bangalore's infrastructural problems. “My worry is that this will be treated as just another accident," Vamanan said. "I just want to ensure that when a life has been lost here, someone is held accountable.”

In a city where the line between road and footpath is often non-existent, pedestrians often face the greatest risk. Half the people killed in accidents in Bangalore in 2012 were pedestrians.

Bangalore is one of the worst Indian cities for pedestrians, according to a study conducted by the city police in coordination with the National institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences. The city scored 0.63 on a walkability index that measured pedestrian facilities, footpaths and other amenities.  By comparison, Chandigarh scored 0.91 and Delhi 0.87.

With almost 1,200 new cars hitting the city's streets every day, it's hard for urban planning to keep up. But the problem is also structural. For example, drivers of the ubiquitous Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses, known for being overcrowded, are forced to speed because of bad incentives. "The [bus] trip timings become inadequate because of ongoing infrastructure projects all over the city, like metro and flyover construction,” said traffic expert MN Srihari. “It adds 10-15 minutes in delays, and to adjust to this, the driver is under constant stress, forcing him to drive fast in order to keep up with the schedule.”

Drivers face considerable pressure if they are late, in their individual evaluations, and BMTC loses out on revenues if buses don’t keep to the schedules.  “BMTC needs to be aware of the way the city is changing, how all these roads are different," Srihari said

Elsewhere, poor planning of roads, bad placement of bus stops and the same haphazard construction that affects bus drivers also encourages unsafe behaviour by motorists. Since the city is choked with traffic, motorists speed up – often dangerously – when they glimpse the slightest bit of open road.

The police have identified the city's 10 'black spots': corridors that recorded the most deaths in accidents last year. Their study found that people in the 12-19 age group, generally on two-wheelers, were more likely to be on the receiving end of a traffic accident.

The study recommended the establishment of a road safety action plan with time-bound measures, stronger enforcement of road safety laws and a more efficient post-accident medical system to reduce fatalities. Indeed the police are not short on recommendations and have even instituted a number of technological measures aimed at improving safety.

But Vamanan, who is hoping to raise awareness about the state of Bangalore's roads in the aftermath of his wife's death, believes much of the money and effort put into these measures have been wasted.

The Intelligent Transport System is one such example. The ITS was supposed to be able to record the movement of public transport vehicles and assist with planning to ensure a safer, more reliable commute. The system was allocated Rs 150 crore but has regularly missed deadlines and experienced procurement problems.

In a city that will continue to expand at breakneck speed, the problems are only set to get worse. If Bangalore is to prevent accidents like that of Badami, Vamanan believes the authorities need to take more responsibility for what happens on the roads. More importantly, he said, citizens need to be able to hold those at fault accountable.

"Much more has to be done, and I'm just hoping, after this, that something can change," Vamanan said. "I just wish there's some concrete action to make the roads safer. Whether it’s just a number on the back of the bus that you call to complain about rash driving, or just having realistic trip times, something needs to change."

 

 
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

Harvard Business School’s HBX brings the future of business education to India with online programs

HBX is not only offering courses online, but also connecting students to the power of its network.

The classic design of the physical Harvard Business School (HBS) classroom was once a big innovation – precisely designed teaching amphitheaters laid out for every student to participate from his or her seat with a “pit” in the center of the room from which professors orchestrate discussions analyzing business cases like a symphony lead. When it came to designing the online experience of HBX—the school’s digital learning initiative—HBS faculty worked tirelessly to blend these tenets of the HBS classroom pedagogy with the power of new technology. With real-world problem solving, active learning, and social learning as its foundation, HBX offers immersive and challenging self-paced learning experiences through its interactive online learning platform.

Reimagining digital education, breaking the virtual learning mold

Typically, online courses follow a one-way broadcast mode – lectures are video recorded and reading material is shared – and students learn alone and are individually tested. Moving away from the passive learning model, HBX has developed an online platform that leverages the HBS ‘case-based pedagogy’ and audio-visual and interaction tools to make learning engaging.

HBX courses are rarely taught through theory. Instead, students learn through real-world problem-solving. Students start by grappling with a business problem – with real world data and the complexity in which a business leader would have to make a decision – and learn the theory inductively. Thus even as mathematical theories are applied to business situations, students come away with a greater sense of clarity and perspective, whether it is reading a financial report, understanding why a brand’s approach to a random sample population study may or may not work, or how pricing works.

HBX Platform | Courses offered in the HBX CORe program
HBX Platform | Courses offered in the HBX CORe program

“Learning about concepts through real-life cases was my favorite part of the program. The cases really helped transform abstract concepts into observable situations one could learn from. Furthermore, it really helped me understand how to identify situations in which I could use the tools that HBX equipped me with,” says Anindita Ravikumar, a past HBX participant. India’s premier B-school IIM-Ahmedabad has borrowed the very same pedagogy from Harvard. Learning in this manner is far more engaging, relatable, and memorable.

Most lessons start with a short 2-3 minute video of a manager talking about the business problem at hand. Students are then asked to respond on how they would handle the issue. Questions can be in the form of either a poll or reflections. Everyone’s answers are then visible to the ‘classroom’. In the words of Professor Bharat Anand, Faculty Chair, HBX, “This turns out to be a really important distinction. The answers are being updated in real-time. You can see the distribution of answers, but you can also see what any other individual has answered, which means that you’re not anonymous.” Students have real profiles and get to know their ‘classmates’ and learn from each other.

HBX Interface | Students can view profiles of other students in their cohort
HBX Interface | Students can view profiles of other students in their cohort

Professor Anand also says, “We have what we call the three-minute rule. Roughly every three minutes, you are doing something different on the platform. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Anyone could be called on to participate at any time. It’s a very lean forward mode of learning”. Students get ‘cold-called’ – a concept borrowed from the classroom – where every now and then individuals will be unexpectedly prompted to answer a question on the platform and their response will be shared with other members of the cohort. It keeps students engaged and encourages preparedness. While HBX courses are self-paced, participants are encouraged to get through a certain amount of content each week, which helps keep the cohort together and enables the social elements of the learning experience.

More than digital learning

The HBS campus experience is valued by alumni not just for the academic experience but also for the diverse network of peers they meet. HBX programs similarly encourage student interactions and opportunities for in-person networking. All HBXers who successfully complete their programs and are awarded a credential or certificate from HBX and Harvard Business School are invited to the annual on-campus HBX ConneXt event to meet peers from around the world, hear from faculty and business executives, and also experience the HBS campus near Cambridge.

HBXers at ConneXt, with Prof. Bharat Anand
HBXers at ConneXt, with Prof. Bharat Anand

Programs offered today

HBX offers a range of programs that appeal to different audiences.

To help college students and recent graduates prepare for the business world, HBX CORe (Credential of Readiness) integrates business essentials such as analytics, economics, and financial accounting. HBX CORe is also great for those interested in an MBA looking to strengthen their application and brush up their skills to be prepared for day one. For working professionals, HBX CORe and additional courses like Disruptive Strategy, Leading with Finance, and Negotiation Mastery, can help deepen understanding of essential business concepts in order to add value to their organizations and advance their careers.

Course durations range from 6 to 17 weeks depending on the program. All interested candidates must submit a free, 10-15 minute application that is reviewed by the HBX admissions team by the deadlines noted on the HBX website.

For more information, please review the HBX website.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of HBX and not by the Scroll editorial team.