Heed Sanjaynagar call for footpaths

Heed Sanjaynagar call for footpaths

Residents of Bengaluru's Sanjaynagar are campaigning for a pedestrian-friendly footpath on the locality's main thoroughfare. The issues that their 'Adjust beda, Footpath beku' campaign has highlighted merit the attention of civic authorities and residents' welfare associations across Bengaluru. The problem they are grappling with is not unique to Sanjaynagar, but are visible across the city. Sanjaynagar Main Road is a busy street that has dozens of shops and commercial establishments lining it. It does not have a proper pavement, forcing pedestrians, many of them senior citizens or schoolchildren, to walk on drain covers or on the road itself. The residents have therefore called for building a safe footpath along this road. However, the footpath plan has strong opponents. Shop-owners are not objecting to a pavement per se, but want it for parking their vehicles as there is no parking space available. Motorists are opposed to the footpath plan as they fear that this will reduce the width of the road, cause congestion and traffic jams. However, Sanjaynagar's residents, who have been collaborating with the NGO Citizens for Sustainability, the Directorate of Urban Land Transport and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to study the impact of the pavement on various stakeholders, found that if people do not walk on the roads, traffic can, in fact, move faster.

Infrastructure development in Bengaluru has by and large prioritised the needs of motorists over the rights and safety of walkers. To address the problem of traffic jams, the government has widened roads, built flyovers and underpasses. But such 'solutions' are not only not reducing traffic congestion but also, these are being built at the
cost of footpaths and safety of walkers. Although the government has built overbridges, skywalks and underpasses, most of these are unusable as they are poorly designed. Several underpasses, for instance, are dark and therefore unsafe, while the steep steps to skywalks make them inaccessible to the elderly and the physically challenged.

Civic authorities need to take a less elitist approach to tackling Bengaluru's traffic woes and greater care to ensure the safety of pedestrians. By developing better public transport, the number of private vehicles can be reduced. Rather than widening roads to accommodate ever increasing traffic, building safe footpaths would encourage more people to walk to nearby destinations. This would not only lessen vehicular traffic, it would also reduce air pollution. Pavements are generally safe spaces for pedestrians. Infrastructure development plans should not eat into this safe space. Sanjaynagar's 'Adjust beda, Footpath beku' campaign has sent out a strong message prioritising the walker. Their call should be taken seriously.

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