The bridge has no footpath; pedestrians have to stay on a narrow ledge to avoid collision
Walking along the Pettah bridge on the Tripunithura-Pettah route is not for the faint of heart. Pedestrians and cyclists who dare to cross the bridge, which has no footpaths and is just wide enough for two wide-bodied vehicles, do so at their own risk.
Pulling off such a task at night on the unlit bridge is an even greater daredevilry.
Rajan, a pensioner residing at Maradu, always folds up his umbrella as soon as he enters the narrow bridge. “Crossing this bridge is a real nightmare especially for elders like me. It is too narrow for me to hold up an umbrella as the vehicles passing by brush it aside,” he said, while balancing precariously on the narrow ledge of the concrete fencing of the bridge.
Residents of an apartment complex on the eastern end of the bridge have even tied up with a few autorickshaw drivers to take them to Pettah Junction hardly 100 m away just to evade the hardship of crossing the bridge.
“Cars and buses often overtake on the bridge, though it is supposed to be banned on such a narrow bridge. This is a strategically located bridge connecting people with the city. While people farther away have the option of using the Tripunithura bypass to reach Pettah by skipping this bridge, it is not feasible for us living just metres away from Pettah,” said Mohandas C.P, president of a residents’ association in the apartment complex.
For the likes of Hema Kesavadas, a housewife who doesn’t drive, a short trip to the neighbourhood to buy groceries has become a ‘life threatening’ experience. “One cannot make it through the bridge holding a carry bag as vehicles will brush it aside. We don’t ask for widening the road, but at least provide a small walking space for pedestrians,” she said.
Residents of the area are scared to let their children cross the bridge on their own. Chandran Thiyyadath, branch manager with a private finance company, has become accustomed to scenes of pedestrians hugging the concrete fencing of the bridge to avoid getting hit by vehicles.
“It’s an assault on people’s fundamental right to free movement. The municipality and the Corporation keep passing about our request for a pedestrian walkway along the bridge. When we took up the issue with the Chief Minister, we were told that the responsibility lies with the Central Public Works Department,” he said.
Abraham Mathew, a businessman, said bus stops on the eastern end of the bridge started with the permission of the Tripunithura traffic police to avoid a trip on foot over the bridge to the bus stop at Pettah Junction were yet to become legitimate.
“The bus stops are being constantly pulled down due to opposition from land owners. We were told that it should be approved by the District Collector and the Road Transport Authority,” he said. A memorandum to this effect has been sent to these authorities on December 1.
Tripunithura municipal chairman R. Venugopal said that Defence Minister A.K. Antony had allocated Rs.1 crore for expansion plans of the bridge three years ago. “The proposal is pending with the National Highways Authority of India since then. The plan is to set up an entirely new bridge with footpaths on either side. This project may not take off if expansions are done on the existing bridge,” he said.
In short, the pedestrians will have to master a balancing act on that ledge for longer.