The miserable condition of the city roads can be solved to an extent with improved construction technology and better coordination of responsible agencies. But it does not end here. Roads are not just a medium for vehicles to travel but it should also cater to the needs of its other main stakeholders such as pedestrians and service providers.
Digging of roads very frequently by different agencies like KWA, KSEB, telecom companies such as BSNL for laying of pipelines plays an significant part in deteriorating the road condition. The service providers cannot always be blamed for it. The pipeline or cables which they had earlier laid beneath the shoulders of the road are now covered with bitumen surface as a result of road widening. The road restoring charges paid by these agencies are additional costs to them. This points out to a need for a proper road design and a robust system in carrying out that task of laying and maintenance of utility lines. What we require is not just road inventory system but street design management system. And utility ducts are to be considered as a significant element of street design.
It is necessary to create a GIS based mapping system for all the roads in the city and adding different layers of information to it regarding the road characteristics and also the underground pipelines. The concerned departments should be able to access this information and for better inter-agency coordination, hence creating an efficient system.
Likewise, it is essential to have street design guidelines for the city roads, based on the road width, that provides equitable access to all road users. Apart from the carriageway (tarred surface), other components that needs to be a part of the street are pedestrian footpath, underground ducting for utilities, infrastructure for NMT (Non- Motorised Transport) and bicycle, zebra crossings, street lighting, street furniture, barrier-free design, public amenities (such as dustbins, bus stops, etc.), medians, storm water management and planting zone. Increased pedestrian design consideration in roads would provide improved comfort for walking population, improved last mile connectivity, prioritization of public transport, reduced dependency on car, hence reduced pollution and congestion. For a city like Kochi that lacks public space, our roads can be developed into streets which will not just facilitate movement of traffic but also support social and leisure activities thereby converting these into public spaces.
Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.