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Wanted: a safe, walkable city

DH News Service, Bengaluru, Feb 8 2018, 1:08 IST

Among the many urban ills seriously impacting the citizens of Bengaluru, one of the most pressing is the diminishing space for pedestrians. Over the last few years, the state government and those at the helm of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), in their hunger for 'growth' and 'development', have been concentrating on building a maze of roads and structures, giving little thought to the needs of pedestrians. The officials of the BBMP and government ministers only seem to talk about road-widening, signal-free corridors, ring roads, flyovers and underpasses €“ most of them expensive, unnecessary and wasteful projects €“ to enable motorists to whizz through, with not the slightest attention to the needs of the pedestrians. Everything is planned and designed for motorists. In the process, people who are on foot or on bicycles have been ignored and have become unwelcome in a city whose wealth has risen but whose civic attitudes have worsened.

The BBMP and the government seem to have no vision for Bengaluru and no plan to make it more livable for all sections of people. All that they seem to do is to draw up monstrous projects, with little concern for their usefulness, and dole out contracts. It is also well-known that it all comes down to jacking up costs, recklessly spending public money and pocketing commissions and kickbacks. Projects are undertaken keeping only the motorists in mind, pedestrians do not even figure in them. Whatever little has been done for the latter in the form of skywalks are not at all user-friendly, since even here the motivation appears to be mainly to garner money through advertisements.

Several studies have indicated that the city's pedestrians are at high risk on many stretches of Bengaluru's roads. Alarm bells must ring that almost half of the 4,200 people killed in road accidents between 2011 and 2017 in Bengaluru city were pedestrians. An effort must begin to ensure the safety of pedestrians. Civic organisations have in recent months been demanding safer, walkable streets. Authorities can start by installing pedestrian signals at all traffic signals and junctions and allowing sufficient time for people to cross the road. Stringent action must be taken against motorists jumping signals or not respecting zebra crossings. Footpaths must be laid or re-laid to make walking safe for everyone, including the elderly and for people with disabilities. Besides, the BBMP can take advantage of the revival of interest in cycling among young people and provide bicycle lanes all over the city. Bengaluru can become a kinder, gentler city if it encourages mobility by walking and cycling.

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