Madhu S, Director (Projects), Centre for Public Policy Research, comments in Hindustan Times about the condition of pavements for pedestrians in India
Footpaths missing in most localities, and those on main roads with heavy traffic are so high, people have to jump to get up
Astha Sharma, 45, is a spondylitis patient who wears a back support and has been advised by her doctor to not try anything that strains her back. However, life for Sharma has been made just a little more difficult because she does not own a car. Commuting to work is a problem because she has to walk to the Metro and “have to virtually get up on the foothpaths. I feel the footpaths are too high and often getting up or down these footpaths is very difficult for pedestrians, especially for those with disabilities. “Climbing up that footpath is a task. The doctor has advised me not to put too much pressure on my back, but I can’t walk on the roads because of the heavy rush,” Sharma says.
As per the “Street Design Guidelines” by Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning and Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC), the “Maximum height of a pavement (including kerb, walking surface, top-of-paving) shall not exceed 150 mm (15 cm). 100 mm (10 cm) kerb height is preferable for arterial roads.” However, these guidelines are only on paper.
The regulatory guidelines and design standards of urban roads are defined by the Indian Road Congress (IRC) and followed by all the municipal authorities and public works departments. In Delhi, authorities follow the UTTIPEC guidelines. “The provision on height of pavements in both UTTIPEC and IRC guidelines is 15 cm,” confirms Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
Footfalls: Obstacle Course to Livable Cities, a study conducted by CSE in 2009, reveals some glaring facts that throw light on the plight of pedestrians in some congested parts of the city. According to excerpts from the study, “Residential colonies that generate high volume of traffic have dismally poor footpaths. At Pandav Nagar and Mother dairy, pedestrians wriggle their way through the fast moving traffic. There are stretches where there are no footpaths. All low income neighbourhoods, including Govindpuri, Seelampur and Jaffrabad have captive and a huge pedestrian traffic. Guru Ravidas Marg cutting across Govindpuri market area has footpaths for most
of its stretch; but the footpaths are discontinuous, poorly paved and not easily accessible. At places, the height of the pavement exceeds 22 centimeters against the accepted norm of 12 to 15 cm. The width is less than 1.5 metres. In Bhakti Vedanta Marg that connects Nehru Place bus terminus with Kalkaji temple, footpaths are discontinuous and exist only on one side at some stretches. The height of the footpath is more than 30 centimeters at places with no ramp facilities to access the crossings and no facilities for the disabled. In some places, the sidewalks have poor paving, especially on Kasturba Gandhi Marg between British Council Library and Connaught lane. Often, wide sidewalks are allowed to have car parking that shrinks the walking area. The absence of a sidewalk facility between the Connaught lane and Scindia House is a problem.”
“Most pavements along roads in India have two-way traffic and lack of skywalks or pedestrian subways lead to chaos. If the capacity of a footpath is less than the specifications (see box above), pedestrians are forced to walk on the street, exposing them to the risk of accidents,” says Madhu S, director (projects), Centre for Public Policy Research.
CSE’s findings during 2009 also revealed that “only pedestrians in Delhi account for 47% of fatalities in the city.” CSE’s road safety audit conducted in the same year quoted an IIT study that says 51% of the 8,503 fatalities in 2006 to 2009 were pedestrians.
Several such findings can justify the vulnerability of pedestrians. But inaction on the part of public works department persists till day. National Crime Records Bureau’s 2013 data shows that Delhi accounted for 12.6% deaths of pedestrians’ amongst 53 mega cities.
“Rules are right in their places. But, in reality, we make 6 inch pavements and people park cars on them, especially in colonies, making the footpath useless altogether. MCD ideally should not allow constructions of buildings above three stories without stilt car parking space. Residents park cars on the road as they don’t have parking space inside their society, thus blocking walking space in most Delhi areas,” says Mukund Joshi, chief engineer, Public Works Department (PWD), Delhi. PWD is constantly addressing complaints related to pavements and Joshi confirmed that all new footpaths that are being made now are being done in strict adherence to the UTTIPEC guidelines, Joshi adds.
“The government’s budget has provided for augmentation of public transport but as of now we haven’t seen anything on pedestrian infrastructure. Their focus has been on making roads for the vehicles, but the footpaths have been neglected and they have not been properly designed for making them safe and accessible. The Delhi government is coming up with an action plan, which we haven’t seen as yet. It is an integrated plan which is supposed to look at various aspects of public transport usage,” says Roychowdhury.
This article was first published in Hindustan Times, 25th July 2015. Can read the entire article at Pavements ‘too high’ for pedestrians in NCR