Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sidewalks, my foot!

Most pedestrians in bangalore are on the roads
Sidewalks, my foot!
Deccan Herald

Roads for vehicles. Footpaths for vendors. Pedestrians on streets. Yes. This gives a picture of the plight of hapless pedestrians in Bangalore. Search for an ideal footpath in this concrete jungle and you will probably not find even one. If you walk on a sidewalk without spraining your ankles or tripping or falling into an open duct or a pit, then thank your stars.

With the increased influx of people into the IT capital, the pedestrian volume is increasing. So also the vehicle volume. However, the worst hit are the pedestrians what with the condition of footpaths deteriorating in tandem. In fact, in many busy areas, the width of footpaths has shrunk and in some places, footpaths have vanished altogether.

Deccan Herald presents how walkers have become voiceless by losing their Rights of Way and being bulldozed by encroachers. While we hardly get to hear the voice of pedestrians asserting their rights, even the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike and the Bangalore Development Authority have given a go-by when it comes to planning of sidewalks.

A rough estimate of the number of pedestrians walking on the footpaths of commercial areas like MG Road, Malleswaram and Majestic puts the figure at a few thousands per hour. However, many footpaths in the City are nowhere near the specified width required to accommodate that many pedestrians — Thanks to the ill-designed footpaths, encroachments and obstacles all along the way.

Almost all the footpaths house a mini world — electric poles, transformers, post boxes, trees, bus stops, dust bins, shops, hawkers, garbage, cobblers kiosks. So where is the space for pedestrians? In the ones which are not encroached, the undulation and uneven surfaces, are enough deterrence.

In some parts of the City, footpaths don’t exist at all. Consequently, everything happens on the road — sale of goods, vegetables and vehicle and pedestrian movement. A busy street in Ulsoor — the Bazaar Street has no footpath. During rush hours, it is a constant fight for space between the pedestrian and the vehicle user.

Footpath is there, yet not there! The KH Road (Double Road) near St Joseph’s College or near Windsor Manor on Bellary Road fit well into this definition. The heavy traffic density on this stretch has made it mandatory for the pedestrians to awaken his extrasensory perceptions to walk safe.

As per a study, a footpath of 1.5 m width can accommodate only about 800 pedestrians per hour in both directions and about 1,200 in one direction. But inspect any of the footpaths in Bangalore and you realise that the width of the footpath varies as you walk along the same road. Now can we blame the people for walking on the roads every now and then?

Ideally, activities generating high pedestrian traffic like shopping malls, schools or hospitals call for adequate infrastructure that can support high pedestrian activity. A traffic impact study taking into account the existing and potential vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the area is a must for planning any development or expansion. However, civic agencies seem to always forget that pedestrians too are road users, while they are busy constructing footpaths and roads. Is fear of traffic jams diverting funds and plan from pedestrian safety?


The width of the sidewalk depends upon the expected pedestrian traffic. The guidelines of the Indian Roads Congress for the capacity of sidewalks are:

Width of sidewalk Anticipated Capacity (No of persons/hr)

All in one direction In both directions

1.5 m 1200 800

2.0 m 2400 1600

2.5 m 3600 2400

3.0 m 4800 3200

4.0 m 6000 4000

In shopping areas : Extra width of 1 m


An ideal footpath would be one which has enough width to accommodate the pedestrian volume of the area in question; slopes at a specified angle at private access to enable easy descent and ascent both for the physically challenged and the pedestrians; be user-friendly and well-lit. It should encourage pedestrians to use it, comfortably and safely, on their own without any enforcement.

However, in most cases, the vertical drop of the footpath at every private access forces pedestrians to go up and down the sidewalk. Being a cumbersome task, this discourages them from using them.

Further, the authorities should plan sidewalks and roads for the future and not try to reduce footpath width to widen the road and cater to the needs of the increased vehicular traffic. They should also try to widen sidewalks on roads with heavy pedestrian traffic. The other solution is to convert roads with heavy pedestrian traffic like Commercial Street into pedestrian malls, where no vehicular traffic is permitted.

— Prof A Veeraraghavan

( Former professor and research scientist at Bangalore University and now Professor of Civil Engineering at IIT, Chennai )


Post a Comment

<< Home