Go, take a walk...

... is what the Palike seems to be telling pedestrians in the City. But, with footpaths vanishing, where will they?

The startling numbers make Bangalore the City with the highest vehicular density in the country. Gone are the days when people would enjoy taking a stroll on the wide footpaths dotted with lush green trees in the Pensioners’ Paradise. Bangalore becoming the ‘fastest growing city’ has taken a toll on pedestrian space. The development activities in the City have resulted in shrinking footpaths and loss of greenery. Adding to the pedestrians’ woes are the street vendors who take up whatever is left of the footpaths.

All this has put the pedestrians at high risk. In the last one year, at least 850 people lost their lives in road accidents, while 5,350 people suffered injuries. Till July this year, about 500 people died in road accidents, said sources in the traffic department.

BBMP engineer-in-chief, B T Ramesh, estimates that presently the City has 1,940 km of arterial and sub-arterial roads. His officials say the footpaths are a mere 1,700 km.

Ideally there should be footpaths on both sides of the road. But not all roads in the City have footpaths, a testimony to the lack of concern for pedestrians on the part of the Palike. Also there is no benchmark regarding the width of the footpaths, which allowed the civic agency to eat up pedestrian space. There is also no standard design or structure to construct footpaths. At some places, the Palike uses stone slabs, while at other places cement slabs are laid on the footpaths. There are also moulded footpaths in some places.

At places like Trinity Circle, the footpaths have glossy marble tiles and there are chances of the pedestrians slipping and falling down. At most places, the stone slabs are laid in an uneven manner. The footpaths at Yarab Nagar near Banashankari Temple and JP Nagar are notable examples for this anomaly. Besides the road-widening projects which take a toll on the pedestrian space, street vendors also eat up a substantial part of the footpaths.

However, Vinay Srinivasa of the Beedi Vyaparigala Hakkottaya Andolana says street vendors are only a small hindrance to pedestrians and that they (street vendors) are at the receiving end of the road-widening projects. He says: “The reality is street vendors ensure the safety of the people, especially women.”

According to him, the major challenge for the pedestrians is the struggle while crossing the roads. Reducing shade due to the rampant felling of trees, absence of benches to sit for the pedestrians, lack of safety for women and flooding during rain are the major challenges to the pedestrians, he adds.

Due to the risk pedestrians face while crossing the roads, the Palike has planned to construct 50-odd skywalks in the City. But the proposal has run into rough weather with some contractors taking legal recourse for bagging the contracts. In the present scenario, only seven new skywalks are coming up in the City.

Another major challenge posing pedestrians is the absence of public toilets in the City and civic sense among the citizens. People prefer relieving themselves in the open on the footpath, either because there are no loos or the public toilets are ill-maintained.

Walkability surveys

A four-member team of the Clean Air Initiative For Asian Cities Centre conducted the ‘Walkability Surveys in Asian Countries’. Bangalore finds a mention in the surveys, but for all the wrong reasons. The report prepared by Sophie Punte, Sudhir Gota, Bert Fabian and Alvin Mejia, puts Bangalore among the top cities where walking trips have depreciated fast.

The report says, in 1984, Bangalore had 44 per cent of walking trips, which has now reduced to a mere 8.3 per cent. Among Indian cities, Bangalore ranks second, below Kolkata, in terms of high pedestrian fatalities. The City has been put in the ‘walk at your own risk’ category. Bangalore finds no place among cities where people show interest in walking.

Public transport system a ray of hope

In the given gloomy scenario, a strong public transport system or eco-friendly means of conveyance like bicycles are seen as the remedy. This alone can bail out Bangalore to make it a pedestrian-friendly city. Expectations are high from BMTC on introducing more high-tech buses and the Namma Metro.

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