A mobility and accessibility audit of footpaths and bicycle paths under construction near Mother Dairy, Ganesh Nagar, in East Delhi in the presence of executive engineers from the East Delhi Municipal Corporation and traffic police has revealed the unscientific, unplanned and arbitrary manner in which roads are being constructed in the Capital. The audit also took into account the opinion of people living in the area.
Besides highlighting the violation of the official transport planner, Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning & Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC) approved norms, the audit also revealed that the EDMC executive engineer present at the site was not aware of the guidelines for construction of footpaths, cycle paths and several other improvements to street design.
“The footpath refurbishment work under way at Ganesh Nagar by the EDMC engineers is another classic example of sheer waste of public money, faulty design and creating unsafe environment,” said Anjlee Agarwal of Samarthyam, an activist group working closely with UTTIPEC to improve accessibility to Delhi roads for all sections of the population.
She said the footpaths were as high as 17 inches (should be 6 inch as per standards) and that the cycle path was 11-inch high when it should have been of 8-inch height.
The footpaths were found to be narrow and varied from 1 feet to 2.5 feet width though the standards mandated 1.5 metre width for walking space.
There were no kerb ramps (for mobility aid users like wheelchairs/walker users or senior citizens to go up on a footpath from road level) and tactile pavings for persons with vision impairments. When Ms. Agarwal asked the engineer to push a wheelchair in which she was seated through the footpath, he admitted that it was a tough task.
Though a workshop on UTTIPEC guidelines was held for the EDMC in June, Ms. Agarwal complained that engineers did not take time to refer to the guidelines and were “making the street infrastructure with their own sweet will/choice”.
While the guidelines say no utility ducts, utility poles, electric, water or telecom boxes, trees, signage or any kind of obstruction should be placed within the walking zone in future, the Ganesh Nagar road was full of barriers.
A slip road on a left turn was found extremely unsafe, raised driveways were not present at any location in front of buildings conforming to guidelines. No provision was provided for kerb ramps and all ramps provided were too steep to be used by either wheelchair users, auto-rickshaws or cyclists.
The audit also found no street lighting and informal street lights had instead been placed by locals. The audit also found encroachment of pavements. No bus shelters were also provided.
It was also revealed that traffic policemen were not aware of no-parking zones and turned a blind eye to encroachments on footpaths and cycle paths by motorists.