Thursday, October 29, 2009

CROSS ROADS AT YOUR OWN RISK

CROSS ROADS AT YOUR OWN RISK
Skywalks. Escalators. Pedestrian subways. All built in a day. But with improper planning. Team TOI finds that Bangalore’s ‘walkability index’ is less than 1
A T Subrahmanya & Aarthi R | TNN


Although pedestrian underpasses are built in a day on narrow roads — even with a ‘widened’ outlook — it’s still difficult to cross Race Course Road
One can’t walk across the recently ‘beautified’ K R Circle at peak hours. Less said the better about older and untouched roads such as Old Madras Road, Residency Road and Museum Road
Promenade Road near Coles Park is one of the oldest and busiest ‘well-built’ roads, with nearly 23 schools and five churches nearby. But with missing concrete slabs, bad lighting, encroachment and chaotic traffic, the road has become a ‘pedestrian unfriendly’ zone
Pedestrians on Residency Road and roads in Indiranagar shy away using skywalks. Reason: it’s easier to wait and run across rather than taking the stairs, especially for senior citizens
It’s good we are now into elevated pedestrian crossings. But the age-old practice of crossing roads at the ancient, flat zebra crossings is still complicated.
There are close to 40,000 junctions in Bangalore — 350 of them being major junctions with signal support. But 5,000 junctions are problematic and need to be manned constantly. Every junction has at least three to five roads. The Indian Roads Congress (IRC) makes it mandatory for roads at junctions to have zebra crossings. These should be maintained regularly and integrated with pedestrian signals, including clearly visible illumination. But in some places, we found that either the zebra stripes were missing or the street lights were malfunctioning at night.
Interestingly, these mandatory slant stripes with strict specifications of width have turned straight and broader at many junctions.At some places, they are getting better as elevated pedestrian crossings.
FADED ZEBRA CROSSINGS
At busy junctions near K R Puram tin factory, zebra crossings have faded and speeding vehicles have erased the lines over time. It’s strange that even today, few people use the pedestrian underpasses below the bridge.
“It takes 15 to 30 minutes to cross this road. We cannot send children alone, fearing the traffic. Despite the signals and a policeman at the junction, we have to wave our hands frantically to incoming vehicles to ask them to stop. Then we cross the road,” says Saroja, a resident nearby.
Technically, flyovers and vehicular underpasses are closed for pedestrians, but we see it a regular in the city.
A minimum width of 7 metres for vehicles and 1.5 metre for pedestrians should be provided below the flyover.
Even underpasses should have a 1.5 metre set aside for pedestrians. This space for
pedestrians is missing at
many areas.
IMPROPER PLANNING
According to road experts in the city, the problem is neither funds nor technology with pedestrian infrastructure. “It’s more to do with improper planning and implementation, followed by irregular maintenance,” explains M N Sreehari, traffic expert and ABIDe member.
WEAR AND TEAR AT JUNCTIONS
According to additional commissioner of police (traffic) Praveen Sood, wear and tear of roads is nearly five times more at junctions. “At least 60% people killed in accidents are pedestrians. There is hardly any infrastructure available for them to safely cross roads at many places. There is a slight disadvantage in policy for pedestrians as most road policies are concerned with motorists,” he points out.
On many junctions not having zebra crossings or having them regularly painted, he explained, “We have painted zebra crossings wherever the roads are good. The paint won’t last if road quality is bad. In fact, the paint remains unfaded for at least two years on good roads and hardly a year on bad ones.”
‘Not friendly to pedestrians’
Is Bangalore safe, clean and comfortable for pedestrians, for example, if they have to walk to the nearest bus stop? The answer is no. Even after spending crores on building flyovers, underpasses and road-widening work, the plight of pedestrians has not improved. However, BBMP has taken up some pilot projects in consultation with ABIDe. These are model roads with wide, clean and safe sidewalks and pedestrian crossings
— R K Misra | MEMBER, ABIDE
What’s in it for pedestrians Zebra crossings at traffic signals Road dividers Underpasses Skywalks
Walkability index A higher walkability index reflects better pedestrian facilities in the city concerned. According to a study commissioned by the MoUD, Bangalore is ranked 12th among 30 sampled cities, with a walkability index of 0.63. The study raises concerns over pedestrian infrastructure, amenities and services sidelined during the urban planning process According to a policy paper on pedestrian movement in Bangalore Metropolitan Region (BMR) commissioned by BMLTA, foot over-bridges and subways are not successful
Why pedestrian infrastructure is bad Difficulty in negotiating the levels, in case of subways and skywalks Poor lighting and hygienic conditions Perceived lack of security Not located on the desired line of movement Lack of awareness by users Poor design and detailing
Various pedestrian skywalks and subways in the city are not fully utilized due to the above reasons.

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