Improving Bangalore’s Walkability Index
The distance between the Trinity Metro station and the Yellappa Chetty Layout is hardly a kilometer. It should have ideally been a cakewalk, had the footpaths been worth the walk in the first place.
The entire pedestrian stretch, from the Trinity station to Ulsoor is obstructed, either by digging or by careless placement of cemented planks, lampposts and transformers. Hawkers, mobile eateries encroach the leftover space. In the name of a footpath, cemented planks have been placed over a pit which usually is full of trash. Therefore, the pedestrian is forced to hop back and forth from the crumbling footpath to the dusty, overcrowded road which is usually clogged with traffic. This isn’t an exclusive case with this area as the same issue haunts most localities in Bangalore. The city is infamous for having the lowest “walkability index”. As per a report by NDTV, which cites Traffic Police Statistics of 2014, two pedestrians are killed everyday due to road menace in the city.
Jenny Pinto, a resident of Bangalore, had started a revolution of sorts when she had filed a PIL demanding the “right of way on footpath”. However, despite campaigns like “Footpath, My foot” and “Hole of Shame”, the issue has failed to gain much momentum. The major reason behind this Spiral of Silence can be attributed to the fact that residents fail to recognize their right to a safe footpath. Not many are aware that as per the provisions of the Indian Roads Congress, there should be a minimum of 1.5m footpath on either side of the road. Width should be increased in shopping areas by 1 meter.
In 2014, a stringent High Court Order had directed the clearing of all footpath encroachments in Bangalore and had made the Chief Engineer accountable for identifying areas which require footpath repairing work. Rupees 17,802 Crore has been spent on construction and repair of roads in past ten years in Bangalore. Janagraha Urban Space Foundation, a non profit has been working in tandem with BBMP for Bangalore’s infrastructure. JUSP has also been spearheading the project-TenderSURE under which a total of 12 roads were to be developed. The government had gone ahead with the TenderSURE project in the Central Business District but soon faced criticism from Public and civil groups like “Forum for Urban Commons and Governance”. The age old road width versus footpath conflict witnessed extremes wherein roads like St Marks had generously widened footpaths and those in Whitefield were said to be widened at the cost of narrow walkways.
To address the issue ,pedestrianization of major roads, building of skywalks and clearing of various encroachments on the walkways will go a long way in making Bangalore more pedestrian friendly. Construction debris is the most common obstruction on pavements. The municipal authority must take the offenders to task. The width as well as the height of the walkway is crucial as when the footpath is at a stipulated height, it deters errant parking by vehicles. It’s time for BBMP to step into a pedestrian’s walking shoes and ensure that the roads of Bangalore are safe.