Pedestrians risk their life and cross the Vytilla Junction in Kochi. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat
VYTTILA WOES: The only solace for pedestrians is the policemen who take the extra effort to help them cross the road.
The biggest junction in the State is also among the least pedestrian-friendly. No wonder then that the Vyttila Junction and its precincts record a sizeable share of pedestrian accidents and fatalities that take place along the Edappally-Aroor NH 47 Bypass.
The traffic police say that the six-lane junction and Thykoodam, on the junction’s southern side, are highly accident prone. Most of the victims are pedestrians crossing the road. Thousands of pedestrians use the junction each day. Their numbers have increased by the day after buses have begun to call at the Vyttila Mobility Hub.
As the secretary of Kochi Corporation Ajith Patil aptly put it, “Pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, adherence to basic road ethics (respecting pedestrians and ensuring their right-of-way at zebra crossings) and rule enforcement are core to ensuring the safe and comfortable transit of pedestrians through our roads.”
Sadly, all these are absent at the junction. The only solace for pedestrians is the policemen who take the extra effort to help them cross the road.
A fleeting look at the junction, owned and maintained by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), bares the pathetic state of affairs. The footpaths — especially on the eastern side, are woefully narrow. Pedestrians often run into one another as the roughly three feet-footpath is encroached upon by vendors selling vegetables and fruits.
Elderly people and those with disabilities have a gruelling time climbing up and down the steep steps at the end of footpaths. The NHAI has done little, despite most zebra crossings at the junction being erased or hardly visible because of incessant traffic flow.
The absence of these markings at busy points forces people to jaywalk and even jump over the barricades erected at the median. Though the District Administration had mooted a skywalk linking the four sides of the junction with the Mobility Hub, the NHAI fears that the proposal might pose problems when the two flyovers and the metro rail pass through the junction.
“Moreover, we own the NH Bypass and our permission has to be sought for the skywalk. This has not been done so far,” said C.T. Abraham, the agency’s Kochi Project Director.
He expressed the hope that crossing the junction would be easier once the flyovers (that seem elusive) were built. The agency does not have any immediate plans to improve the state of affairs.
The Centre for Public Policy Research, an NGO, had done a pedestrian audit in the city a few years ago, to identify the woes that pedestrians face.
“The Vyttila Junction has major design flaws. The planners have made temporary and piecemeal designs, which fall short of a planned junction,” said D. Dhanuraj of the organisation.
Speaking about pedestrian-friendly systems that the city needs, Mr. Patil said pedestrians must be able to safely travel through the footpaths/road shoulders and cross the road. Or else, they would jaywalk, causing accidents and slowing down vehicles.
“The Kochi Corporation will strive to provide pedestrian-friendly infrastructure in keeping with the Indian Roads Congress (IRC) norms, especially on busy roads. A cultural change is required so that both pedestrians and motorists can safely use the road. Now, the premium is on the width of the carriageway, so that vehicles can move steadily. This must not be at the cost of the width of footpaths,” Mr Patil said.