Know Your City: The first traffic signal that keeps Bengaluru moving

Written by Ashiqa Jose. M

Signalling its progressive stance over the years, Bengaluru stands tall with over hundreds of automatic traffic signals dotting the capital city. The city marches ahead with its target of setting up nearly 1,000 signals in future, focusing on development in all aspects. Bengaluru hit one of its milestones over 50 years ago before technical advancements had touched the city. This is Bengaluru’s first traffic signal that was installed way back in 1963 to keep the city moving.

Erected at N R Junction and located immediately after crossing the Town Hall signal, the traffic signal light was inaugurated by C Chandy IPS, the then police commissioner of Bengaluru, alongside B N Garudachar, IPS, the then deputy commissioner of police (Traffic). The inauguration held in 1963 was commemorated on March 15, 2021 by former police commissioner Kamal Pant, IPS, and former DG and IGP of Karnataka, Garudachar, at the NR Junction.

The traffic signal light was inaugurated by C Chandy IPS, the then police commissioner of Bengaluru. (Express photo by Jithendra M)

The traffic signal was first manually operated and it had no connection with other junctions. Due to paucity of funds, the design only utilised the red light made from a metal tin. It was furnished with a red filter covering a luminous bulb.

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“My father had gone to Mumbai on a flight called ‘Caravelle’. It was his first time on an aircraft, and he had gone to get the design from the Mumbai Police. As the deputy commissioner of police, he immediately came up with the appropriate designs and other necessities. It was later installed on J C Road near the LIC building,” says Uday Garudachar, son of B N Garudachar and MLA of Chickpet constituency.

Since the budget could only adhere to a limited supply, a manual signal was built as an automatic signal rounded up to over Rs 3.5 lakh at the time. Moreover, the signal functioned with the utilisation of a switch until 2003, which was later replaced with an electrically automated traffic signal powered by solar panels.

“When we told the police department about the plans to commemorate the signal, they were delighted to make it a symbolic installation that denoted the first traffic signal in Bengaluru,” said Garudachar. With the symbolic value it endorsed, it was also installed due to the severance of traffic at the intersection. Due to the difficulty in managing such a crowd, the officers went ahead to establish the signal in N R Junction.

It may be hard to imagine such difficulties and havoc that a power cut would cause, creating confusion among the crowd. But since the scenario has differed from then, the outlook is more positive. “At the age of 94, I don’t remember much of it, but when the first traffic signal was put on, it was appreciated by everybody. Of course, so many traffic poles have been installed but this remains a close memory,” said B N Garudachar.

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