Encroachment-free and continuous walkways, regular maintenance of pedestrian infrastructure and prioritising those on foot instead of those behind wheels are some key aspects which experts say agencies should consider while making Delhi a walkable city.
Reacting to a Hindustan Times report on Monday, which stated that Delhi for the first time is set to get a walkability policy of its own, experts said the guidelines would be a success only if all agencies coordinate with each other, instead of working in silos.
The HT report stated that road owning agencies will also remodel 19 areas to make the city safer and more accessible for pedestrians. The areas identified for the pilot project include ITO, North and South campuses of Delhi University, Uttam Nagar crossing, INA, Hauz Khaz-IIT, Adhchini on Aurobindo Marg, Nehru Place, Bhikaji Cama Place and Karol Bagh.
To make all these plans work, experts identified five key issues which all stakeholders — municipal corporations, traffic police, Delhi government’s public works and transport departments, Delhi Development Authority and planning bodies (UTTIPEC and NIUA) – will have to ensure.
For Subhash Chand, head of traffic engineering and safety division at Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), walking in Delhi is synonymous to walking in an unknown “jungle”, thanks to rampant encroachment.
“The biggest problem peculiar to Delhi is encroachment which goes on unabated. Anti-encroachment drives are so sporadic that in just 2-3 days the vendors or the illegal parking return. The year 2018 is the perfect example of this. MCDs and the traffic conducted drives after drives, but the same areas remain clogged,” he said.
Chand also emphasised on the need for better coordination between agencies. “There are footpaths which have electrical poles right in the middle. Road crossings now lead to Metro pillars. All these need just one solution — basic communication between multiple stakeholders,” he said.
Transit exchange points
According to a traffic police study, of the 1,510 people who died in road accidents in 2017, at least 44% were pedestrians. Experts said a large number of pedestrian deaths occur when a commuter either is getting down from a vehicle or is trying to board one.
“In Delhi-NCR there have been so many accidents where a commuter is killed while getting down from a bus and trying to cross a road. The same is the case with boarding a vehicle, which could even be an e-rickshaw or a gramin sewa,” said Piyush Tewari, founder and CEO of road safety NGO, Save Life Foundation.
Tewari suggested that ‘speed-calming’ measures such as rumble strips and grooving on roads must be mandatorily built at transit points. Approach paths to every bus stop in Delhi should have this.
Chand of CRRI said the UTTIPEC had prepared multi-modal integration (MMI) plans for about 80 Metro stations, none of which have materialised as per expectations. Delhi Metro officials said on condition of anonymity agreed that portions of several such plans could not be taken up due to inter-agency differences. “While the DMRC built pedestrian walkways and sitting areas as per plan, bays for para-transit that were to be readied by PWD or transport department did not come up at many stations,” said a metro official.
Segregating the vulnerable
Tewari said the policy should address the practice prevalent in Delhi where trucks and buses are given the same side of the road (left) as pedestrians and cyclists.
“Agencies should take a cue from their own experience – the 15-day Kanwar Yatra. It is the perfect example of how much priority pedestrian pathways needs to be given in Delhi. Their entire route is segregated from the main carriageway, which leads to minor traffic. But, the same thing if planned with proper engineering can be a good long-term solution,” he said.
Experts also said road crossings should be similar to the ones at Connaught Place. All crossings should be made as islands, they said. It means they need to have slight elevation with grooving on ramps on both sides.
Subways, bridges should be last resort
According to Sanjay Gupta, head (transport and planning), School Planning and Architecture (SPA), agencies should focus on the basics first — creating continuous and obstruction free footpaths.
“Footpaths and pedestrian crossings should be made more attractive with bright paintings and signage. It should grab the excitement of pedestrians so they feel like giving it a try. There are enough studies to prove that people prefer surface walking facilities over climbing up a foot over bridge or down to a subway, building which are way costlier,” he said.
Gupta also said it is important to improve lighting along pathways and crossings as most pedestrian deaths occur as the motorist is unable to see the pedestrian. “The focus should be to make pedestrians more visible on the streets. Not just for safety, it could also have a behavioural impact on a two-wheeler rider,” he said.
Dedicated funds, department for walkability
Chennai, which is the first city in India to have a non-motorised transport (NMT) policy, has made it mandatory that 60% of its transport budget will be spent on promoting NMT. Shreya Gadepalli, South Asia Programme Lead at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), which collaborated with the Greater Chennai Corporation over the last eight years, said Delhi should do something similar.
“At least all local bodies, road owning agencies should have a separate fund dedicated to ensuring that the area under their jurisdiction is walkable. Without that, agencies would continue to focus only on increasing the road space for vehicles,” she said.