Will white-topping of roads help pedestrians?

Will white-topping of roads help pedestrians?

The massive white-topping project has already covered 13-km of city roads on one side. But as the Rs 723.71 crore project expands to its full planned extent of 93.47 km, a critical question remains: How beneficial will it be for the pedestrians?

Urban mobility experts are not impressed with the allocation of space for footpaths on the white-topped (concretised)Kasturba Road stretch near Kanteerva Stadium, the first to be upgraded. The city's widest road has the narrowest footpath, they say.

But the Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) insists that the pavement is wide enough.

Typically, the footpath width should be 1.8 metres when the vehicular lane is 3.2m wide. Standard road design demands that the vehicular lane width is uniform throughout, and the surplus space is earmarked for bus bays, parking and even hawker zones. BBMP Chief Engineer (Major Roads) K T Nagaraj says this design will indeed be followed.

The government had opted for a comprehensive white-topping strategy after last year's unprecedented rains left roads across the city with gaping potholes.

Under the white-topping, normal bitumen asphalted roads are given a concrete topping. If done with great care, this could potentially extend the road's life and prevent potholes. But road engineering experts warn that if the white-topped roads are ever dug up by multiple civic agencies, the result could be disastrous. It could get much worse than a pothole.

Nagaraj says the Palike is coordinating with the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) and other agencies in this regard.

"We are providing cross ducts for utility lines every 100 to 200m," he informs.

Besides, he says, the focus is now on white-topping
22 km of the main carriageway of the Outer Ring Road (ORR). There are no utility lines under this. The ORR service roads are also not being included in the project.

Shifting all utility lines under the footpath and upgrading the pavements to boost their walkability was the TenderSURE model. Ideally, this approach could have worked well.

But the Palike official contends that a TenderSURE and white-topping mix would prove prohibitively expensive.

Balanced approach

A balance could be struck if the white-topping project takes a pedestrian-friendly approach.

"While the white-topping is welcome, it must be accompanied by wider footpaths. The project should be seen as an integrated strategy, and work well for pedestrians," as civic evangelist V Ravichander puts it.

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