Surat is a commercial city in the state of Gujarat and is one of the economic hubs of India with a population of over 4.7 million.
As a city grows both in economic and area terms, transportation becomes a major challenge, and the same is seen in Surat. 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 commute or walk a highly stressful and risky one. 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 walkability survey interviewed 337 pedestrians over 23km at various land use types such as residential, commercial, educational and public transport terminals to analyze travel behaviour, preferences, areas for improvement etc.
1. Surat fared poorly in the walkability index with an average of 42 (out of 100). Among the different land use types, Public Transport Terminals scored the least with 25 and residential area the highest with 49. While Commercial and Educational areas scored 46 and 48 respectively.
What this means:
Commercial, educational areas and public transport terminals lack proper footpaths and other facilities that leaves pedestrians competing 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 24 and security from crime and availability of walking paths both scored highest at 52, motorist behaviour and grade crossing safety scored 36 and 38 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.
Safety from crime scored lower than the Indian average of 60.
3. In the rating of existing pedestrian facilities, 57% felt that it was worst to bad and 19% felt it was ok.
What this means:
Since a large percentage of pedestrians had a bad opinion about the pe- destrian infrastructure and facilities accessible to them, it can definitely be inferred that they would like to see better facilities, which need not be capital intensive.
4. Grade crossing safety and Motorist behaviour scored 38 and 36 respectively
What this means:
Pedestrians lack safe crossing areas even at junctions. Motorist behaviour which factors drivers’ attitude and sensitivity towards pedestrians shows that pedestrians are exposed to great danger while on the roads.
WHAT WE ACTUALLY NEED:
- 98% Pedestrians also wanted crossings at an average interval of 100m, while 96% wanted slower vehicle speeds on the roads to help them cross the road 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 at regular intervals 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 reduced speed of vehicles.
- 97% of the people wanted wider, clean and level footpaths, indicating a strong feeling that the city’s facilities are insufficient.
- 94% wanted removal of encroachments, including vehicles parked on footpaths to make easier trips.
- 96% wanted better facilities for differently abled people, while 97% wanted improved street lighting.
If no improvements were carried out for pedestrian facilities, 22% wanted to shift to taxis, 17% to two wheelers 14% to cars, and 11% to jeepneys. There has been a continuous shift from NMT to motorized modes and lack of improvement in NMT facilities is one of the reasons.
Exposure to air pollution is also a deterrent to walking with 23% saying they are most exposed to air pollution when they are walking and 35% when they are using two wheelers, 19% and 12% when they are travelling on Jeepneys and waiting for bus respectively. The 35% who use walk and use buses have the least emissions while being exposed to most pollution, which is ironical and will widen the rich and poor divide.
Download Improving Walkability in Indian Cities here.