Walk Tall!

Rajkot, India

Rajkot is the fourth largest city in the state of Gujarat is located in Saurashtra region, with an aggregate population of about 1.5 million.

Photo credit: thecityfix.com


As a city grows both in economic and area terms, transportation becomes a major challenge, and the same is seen in Rajkot in the last few years. Traditional modes of traveling like walking and cycling over the years have got less priority over motorized modes in a rapidly growing economy, which have had its pitfalls like congestion, pollution, accidents etc., which make daily commuting or walking a highly stressful and risky business. Therefore there is a strong need now to make the city pedestrian friendly by providing them safe walkways and exclusive cycle lanes, thereby promoting healthy lifestyles.

To measure and benchmark the various conditions of walking, both tangible and psychological, a walkability index consisting of nine parameters viz. walking path conflict, availability of walking paths, availability of crossings, grade crossing safety, motorists behavior, amenities, disability infrastructure, obstructions and security from crime, were arrived at, slightly modifying the Global Walkability Index.

The survey interviewed 370 pedestrians over 23 km at various land use types such as residential, commercial, educational and public transport terminals to analyze travel behaviour, preferences, areas for improvement etc.

OUTCOMES:

1. Rajkot scored high in the walkability index with an average of 53 (out of 100). Among the different land use types, commercial areas scored the least with 49.7 and residential area the highest with 59. While public transport terminal and educational areas scored 51 and 50 respectively.

What this means:

Commercial, educational areas and public transport terminals lack proper footpaths and other facilities that pedestrians have to compete with vehicles for space, making it a one sided contest.

2. Among the nine parameters used to gauge walkability, infrastructure for people with special needs scored the lowest with 23 and lack of obstruc- tions scored highest at 77, availability of crossings and security from crime scored 71 and 70 respectively.

What this means:

People on wheelchairs and other disabilities have little or no mobility on the city roads, with uneven, discontinuous pavements, absence of ramps and handrails, forcing them to use their private vehicles, or making their daily commute a struggle. For people who cannot afford a vehicle, the city is unforgiving, thereby denying equal opportunities to all.

Walking is possible in most areas without obstructions including parked vehicles, and there is availability of clear crossing locations. Safety from crime also scored high making pedestrians walk without much fear.

3. In the rating of existing pedestrian facilities, 75% felt that it was very bad to okay.

What this means:

Since a large percentage of pedestrians had a bad opinion about the infrastructure accessible to them, it can definitely be inferred that they would like to see better facilities, which need not be capital intensive.

WHAT WE ACTUALLY NEED:

1.  42% of respondents wanted at grade crossings, and not skywalks and subways, which usually are not differently abled friendly and may not be safe at nights.

2.  99% of people wanted at grade crossings at an average interval of 100m, and 93% of respondents wanted slower speeds of vehicles on the roads to help them cross the roads safely. Both can be achieved by good designs and traffic calming measures such as sign boards and speed breakers, without compromising on the vehicular speeds. Policy makers have always avoided providing at grade crossings in order to provide greater speeds to vehicles. This is a myth since it will only attract more vehicles and lead to more congestion and ultimately reducing speed of vehicles.

3.  81% wanted wider, clean and level footpaths, and 55% better street lighting.

CONCLUSION:

1.  If no improvements were carried out for pedestrian facilities, 44% wanted to shift to two wheelers and cars. And 51% would not shift and continue walking.

2. There has been a continuous shift from NMT to motorized modes and lack of improvement in NMT facilities is one of the reasons. It is also important to note that 51% would not shift to motorized mode, indicating that they prefer to walk despite the poor condition (which is unlikely) or are forced to walk due to their economic condition, clearly increasing the rich and poor divide.

 3. Exposure to air pollution is also a deterrent to walking with 13% saying they are most exposed to air pollution when they are walking and 5% when they are waiting for the bus and 53% when they are using Jeepneys. Both the motorized modes which make up 58% will require some level of walking thereby exposing people who emit the least (walking or using public transport) to most pollution.

Download Improving Walkability in Indian Cities here.

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