At Bengaluru’s Anil Kumble Circle, autorickshaws are not allowed to take a right to MG Road, where a metro station is situated just 450 metres away. A little way down, autos are not allowed to go into Church Street either, which is home to several restaurants and retail outlets with a lot of customer footfall. Similarly, even Commercial Street, which is frequented by thousands of customers daily, is prohibited for autos.
These are a few of the seven roads in the city which are ‘no auto zones’. And auto drivers are unhappy. These roads do not have restrictions for passenger vehicles – so why are we alone stopped from accessing them, ask the city’s auto drivers.
Traffic officials say that the no auto zones are created to ensure smooth flow of traffic. The police and concerned authorities have powers to restrict certain vehicles in a specified area or on a specified road under The Motor Vehicles Act (1988), Section 115.
Experts say no auto zones are necessary for citizens to enjoy public spaces, saying that there is no inconvenience to the public as autos are available a short distance from these zones.
“Cubbon Park area is restricted because the pollution has to be kept low. In Church Street and Commercial Street, the width of the road is very tight, if autos were allowed people moving around and shopping will not have any space, they should be able to enjoy these spaces. Autos are available in 50-100 metres,” explains Sanjeev Dyamannavar, urban mobility expert.
However, auto drivers say that such rules are discriminatory – especially when they have to compete with taxis, who face no such restrictions. Speaking to TNM, auto driver Mohammed Hussain says, “These roads are located in places where people gather a lot. If these restrictions are removed, customers can be dropped exactly where they need to go. Old people and families can get from one place to another easily.” He also adds that the rule makes customers opt for cabs as they don’t have such restrictions, causing loss of business for auto drivers.
Srinivas, secretary of the Auto Rickshaw Driver’s Union (ARDU) south Bengaluru, says, “The ride-sharing apps charge customers cancellation fees, we don’t do that. Cabs charge commission in addition to the meter fare, we charge by the kilometre.”
“With this meagre amount we can’t even get any medical help when needed, can’t enrol our kids in a good school/college, and the fines add up on top of this. My income is not even Rs 1,000 per month. Inflation in education and housing is already suffocating us. Don’t hurt our chances, let us earn. Every rupee matters,” says Haribabu, another auto driver.
Many passengers, too, say they would prefer that these roads are opened up for autos. Megha, a frequent autorickshaw commuter, says, “We have so many problems due to these no-auto roads. As it is not possible to go by auto to the exact point, we end up walking so much. Cost is also more when we take a longer route. Auto drivers are also suffering because of this problem.” She hopes that there will be a solution to the problem soon.
Talking about the no auto zones, Bengaluru Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Ravikanthe Gowda says, “The zones are not created to inconvenience auto drivers, they are for the convenience of the public. They are there to provide smooth passage to traffic.”
When asked if there was any possibility of doing away with these zones, the Commissioner says, “These roads are more clogged and the density of traffic is only increasing, therefore there is no going back on this.”