A road in a humongous gated community can be the equivalent of a Green Anaconda, coiled and largely hidden in water and therefore its size and potential threat not alarmingly obvious.

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These gated communities have their job cut out, as the roads can turn sharply in places; have ramps from car basements leading up to them; and at certain hours, have residents cycling on them, dangerously rubbing bumpers with motorists.

“If all the roads within our community are put together to make up one road, we will have a road that is around 2.5 km long,” declares Raghavan Murti, president, Union of Tower Association at House of Hiranandani Upscale in Egattur. “To manage such roads, gated communities should have a full-fledged road safety and regulatory system in place. Besides, residents’ welfare association members will have to walk a thin line between education and regulation.”

Raghavan illustrates this with two examples — children skating and cycling down the roads; and trying out the ramps in the car basement areas.

“Whenever children skate and cycle on the roads, our hearts are in our mouths. We advise them and the parents on how to be safe. As parents want this outdoor activity for their children we cannot ban it,” elaborates Raghavan. “However, we step into the role of a strict enforcer, when a child tries to cycle down a ramp leading to the basement car parking, because of the high degree of risk attached to it. We have posted security personnel just to watch these ramps for such violation.”

At DLF Garden City, a massive 1750-unit community in Semmancheri with huge open spaces and a wide matrix of roads, the safety and security team did not countenance requests from parents that school buses come right to their towers.

Shelters at DLF Garden City for children to board school buses
 

“It was a case where the request had to be rejected straightaway and it was. If this request was acceded to, there could be 20 school buses coming into the community, and the safety of other children from the community who head to their schools riding bicycles would be compromised. So, this obviously could not be allowed. The community however did whatever it could to help parents and their school-going children: It built bus shelters outside for parents and the children to wait for school buses,” explains P.V.S. Janarthanam, a resident and a member of the Sub-Committee for Safety and Security.

John Praveen, secretary of Vaikund Sundaram Apartment Association, points out that his community is spread out horizontally, having a mix of villas, duplex-apartments and regular apartments, and has roads that together add up to a kilometre. So, by default, traffic management is one of the big components of safety.

This means there are going to be complaints about speeding and rash driving, and as Praveen explains, the Association seeks to have them addressed promptly, fairly and sometimes with an iron hand.

“People will get called out for exceeding speed limits, and rash driving. We also fine people,” says Praveen, adding that this requires an evidence-based system to be fostered. “When parents complain about rash driving, we monitor the footage, and we go to those in question with the evidence. We can be firm but not aggressive about it.”

The point, Raghavan says, is that residents should be continually reminded that their road behaviours are being watched. “We get the security personnel to instruct and correct those found violating traffic rules. When residents send in video evidence of a traffic violation, we act on it and that ensures their continued trust in the system.”

Raghavan underscores the effectiveness of humour is disarmingly conveying the importance of inviolable rules, citing the example of how the community teamed up with a group of students from Padma Adarsh, a school on Old Mahabalipuram Road run by the Punjab Association, to hold a helmet campaign on the premises, and also outside on the arterial road, including the Navallur checkpost.

Case studies from Chennai on what it takes to keep gated communities accident-free

“With the sartorial features and bearing of Yamaraj, one of the students would stop anyone riding a motorcycle within the community without a helmet on, and say, ‘Come! Come! Come! You are just the one I was looking for!’ These campaigns may not show immediate results, but when they are run on a sustained basis, results will surely follow,” he believes.

Both Praveen and Raghavan understand that the basic handicap faced by residents’ association cannot be surmounted. For, they cannot do so, without losing their essential character, which is that of an enabler of rules, and not an iron-fisted enforcer of them.

Therefore, infrastructural intervention — such as installing an adequate numbers of speed breakers and reflectors; having convex mirrors around turns, and signages — should be of the highest order, making it near-impossible for residents to engage in risky road behaviour. Besides, communities should also have clear road-safety guidelines handed to security personnel, and they would take things forward from there.

With these, gated communities can breathe easy in times when they just cannot leave things to residents’ good sense.

“At House of Hiranandani it is 7:45 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. to 7 p.m.,” says Raghavan. That is obviously not the time to stand by with folded arms to watch if the safety campaigns have had an impact on residents. It is a time of heavy traffic, consisting of people in a hurry — and haste and horsepower can be an unsettling combo.

Says Raghavan, “During these hours, we deploy our security personnel who regulate traffic with whistles and firmness.” Janarthanam points out that at DLF Garden City, the safety and security team does not take kindly to people driving into and around the community, without driving licences. He elaborates: “The security personnel are instructed to carry out regular and random checks, and so, they would ask vendors to present their driving licences. They are also asked to report to the sub-committee if any young resident who is driving a motorised vehicle though they are not old enough to drive one. Having clear instructions from the sub-committee, security personnel are capable of taking the right decisions on their own.”



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