Are walkers safe on Bengaluru streets?

Walkers unsafe on Bengaluru streets as 164 die in lockdown year

A report revealed that about 32% of pedestrian fatalities happened in 2018 and 2019

While 285 pedestrians were killed in 2018, the numbers fell to 273 in 2019. Credit: DH photo.

The death of a 40-year-old schoolteacher in Nagarabhavi last month has once again brought the focus on pedestrian fatalities in the city. 

A goods vehicle mowed down the teacher as she walked on the footpath, raising the question if Bengaluru roads are pedestrian-friendly even with the advent of TenderSURE and white-topping projects. Despite the much-touted modern roads, 24% of the road fatalities involve pedestrians. 

A few weeks ago, the Bengaluru traffic police released an accident analysis report pertaining to the years 2018 and 2020, which pointed out vehicles mowing down pedestrians walking on the footpaths as one of the major causes of fatal accidents in the city. 

Despite pedestrian fatalities dropping marginally year on year, Bengaluru witnessed about 164 deaths in 2020 alone, though nearly half of the year had been spent under various stages of lockdown and unlock. 

The report revealed that about 32% of pedestrian fatalities happened in 2018 and 2019. “While the data showed that fatalities were 24% in 2020, it is still alarming as people hardly came out due to pandemic fear and other curbs enforced by the state government,” said a traffic expert. 

Speeding motorists

While 285 pedestrians were killed in 2018, the numbers fell to 273 in 2019, the data revealed. “When vehicular density reduces on the roads, it encourages motorists to speed up,” explained Akhila Suri, an expert from the Traffic Programme, which conducts traffic sensitisation programmes.

“Pedestrians also walk along the road as they do regularly. These conditions create a conflict between the two road users, resulting in accidents ranging from non-fatal to fatal,” she added. 

Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) BR Ravikanth Gowda admitted that the issue is serious, but pedestrians must also follow the rules since infrastructure alone cannot be a solution. 

“Good and high-rise footpaths are need of the hour. We must also understand that lack of infrastructure is not the only reason for pedestrian accidents. They are also putting their lives in danger by refusing to obey the traffic rules,” Gowda said, insisting that a general change in road culture among pedestrians and motorists is necessary on top of good infrastructure. 

Poor infra and fatalities

A closer look at the traffic police's analysis showed that about 43 pedestrians were killed due to lack of pedestrian pavement on city roads in the last three years. In 2020, about 10 people were killed due to lack of infrastructure. 

Frequent repair works and digging up of roads also claimed the lives of many pedestrians. While fatalities were only six in 2018, the death toll rose to 11 in 2019. In 2020, the numbers stood at nine. 

“Regardless of the development, about 60% of the roads do not have adequate footpaths that are at least 1.8 metres wide as the guidelines,” said M N Srihari, a leading traffic expert and planner. 

“The footpaths along a few main roads in the Central Business District (CBD) are maintained well. But if you move into any residential locality where most of the pedestrians take to walking, they are hardly maintained, and squatters would have encroached upon the pedestrian space,” he added. 

An urban planner associated with the BBMP’s town planning wing acknowledged that pedestrian deaths in 2020 could have been far lower, given that people stayed indoors for much of the year. 

“If not for the pandemic, the numbers definitely could’ve increased,” the urban planner said, adding that the civic agencies must wake up to the grave threat and clear illegal encroachments of footpaths in residential localities.