A national forum brought together today key government and development agencies, research institutes and civil society that have an interest in improving walkability in India. This forum is a culmination of the efforts of the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia) with support from Shakti Foundation and other organizations starting from the widely publicized study on Walkability in Indian Cities published last year.
The city walkability assessment reports in Kota, Chennai, Bhubaneshwar, Pune, Rajkot, Surat and Bangalore generated a lot of attention from the media and city governments as the study highlighted the state of walkability and pedestrian facilities in Indian cities as well as the sentiments and wishes of pedestrians.
Inaugurating the event, Bhure Lal, Chairman EPCA said – “Resident Welfare Associations (RWA)s need to be more watchful and must exercise their rights for un-encroached and safe footpaths ” and Mr Satyendra Garg, Joint Commissioner Police (Traffic) Delhi said – “Pedestrian account for 50% of road accidents and 80% of the accidents are avoidable”.
“There has been nearly 10% – 30% reduction in walking mode across Indian cities. This would add to a huge number in the city vehicular traffic. Everyone has a role to play, starting from the pedestrians to the policy makers to the vehicle manufacturers, but the point is that the policy makers need to first provide more safe walking infrastructure” according to Parthaa Bosu, India Representative of CAI-Asia.
Himani Jain, Shakti Foundation said, “Cities in India have about 1/3 walking trips. A robust metro/bus system will also fail if people cannot reach or depart from it safely.”
The forum also saw experts in the field talk present on the various parameters that are essential in making walkability successful. Street designs for example, which allocates space for all components like utilities, vendors, pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, make a city sustainable. Access to various services within a 5 to 10 minutes walking distance is an important aspect in urban planning which many of the city planners fail to incorporate in the suburban areas.
Bhubaneswar, Chennai and Chandigarh are taking up various projects to improve pedestrian facilities. Chennai for example is incorporating improving its road alignments, providing safer crossing points and also training its engineers. “We need to sensitize our technical personnel on the nuances of sustainable transport and complete street designs, which is when the ground conditions will improve,” says Balchand Parayath of Chennai City Connect.
While Bhubaneswar is planning to convert some of its popular areas such as Lingraj temple, old market areas into pedestrian friendly zones by restricting vehicular movements and providing dedicated space for vendors. This will ensure smooth flow of all transport modes.
Speaking at the forum, renowned author Sam Miller said, “Walking is like an adventure in Delhi and it is essential that we improve walking as it improves social interactions.”
Also present at the event were Dinesh Mohan (TRIPP), Ashok Bhattacharjee (UTTIPEC), Prof Chella Rajan (IIT M), Anjlee Agarwal (Samarthyam) and B I Singal (IUT).
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Something I have noticed in my recent 6 week travels through India is a severe lack of walking paths/sidewalks. And in cases where these existed, they were often covered in waste. Even numerous new roads that were/are being built had no walking provisions. I would in fact call this among India’s worst problems.
I believe these paths should be added to the specifications for any new road building projects in India. It only requires small slivers of space.