One of the hallmarks of a great city is its ability to guide its commuters and pedestrians from Place A to Place B. This was clearly not in evidence when a tourist bus driver, not knowing where he was headed a couple of days ago when he reached the Lalbaug Flyover, got so disoriented that he rammed his vehicle straight into its concrete barrier. Fortunately, no one was killed, only a few were injured.
This accident is symptomatic of what is wrong with transport infrastructure in Mumbai. Even leading landmarks in the city are often without any signage indicating what they are.
Other mega cities around the world have a method in the madness. New York, for instance, has numbered streets; Washington DC has lettered roads. Paris has well-planned avenues and zones, called arrondissements. The signages are so well designed and erected that you have to make superhuman effort to get lost.
Compare this with Mumbai. How many flyovers even have names prominently mentioned on them? How many roads have signage that tells you where you will land up if you are driving on it? The closest Mumbai comes to in terms of being an ugly mess is London, which, until a few years ago, had not even given thought to road signage. This is why the famous cab drivers of London get their license after years of training and exams.
But even London is changing. A programme of mathematically planned road signs was launched in 2010 thus paving the way for commuters and pedestrians to know exactly where they are going without using a GPS device.
Mumbai needs effective road signs now. The best time to build great and accurate road signs was 20 years ago. But today isn’t a bad time to start either.