The Hindu’s recce of a dozen underpasses paints a dismal picture of pedestrian infrastructure in the city

In a city where the traffic is as mercilessly chaotic as it is voluminous, pedestrian subways or underpasses are the last refuge of the gritty pedestrian. They offer walkers a safe rite of passage on the most congested and dangerous roads, and Bangalore has at least a dozen more blueprints for underpasses across the city.

But, a recce of a dozen existing underpasses on the city’s arterial roads indicate that these passages are largely unused, ill-maintained, or worse, simply locked up at all hours. Even the one that is used extensively, such as the one adjacent to the bustling Majestic bus terminus, was found wanting for space as a section of the passage is blocked by hawkers.

K.R. Circle

Take the centrally-located K.R. Circle, where crossing the road is nothing short of an expedition. Of the five subways in the area, only one was found fit for use: the one adjacent to the SJ Polytechnic. A security guard, who was sweeping the underpass there, says that he is paid Rs. 5,000 to “take care” of all five underpasses, and this includes upkeep and security. Needless to say, he is unable to manage this single-handedly. The underpass on the Sheshadri Road stretch was dirty and reeked. A UVCE student said: “Nobody uses it. It is dark, dirty and has no lighting at night.” Students added that since the road there was narrow, a subway was not “really needed”. In contrast, on Nrupathunga Road, where pedestrians struggle to cross, the subway is dirty and liquor bottles are strewn all over, indicating that it isn’t used as much more than a watering hole. The ceiling appears broken, and it floods when it rains.

The worst subway here is the one on Ambedkar Veedhi where stagnant water and filth make it smell like a public toilet. “It’s been flooded every since they built it,” says Nithin, a commuter. Sadly, this is the road that most needs a subway given it is wide and has traffic coming in from two main roads on to it.

Majestic area

The underpass adjacent to the Majestic bus-stand is maintained, and barring minor encroachment by hawkers — who do cater to the shopping needs of commuters — it is well-used. But, in contrast, the one near the City Railway Station has people wading through slushy patches. A businessman and regular here says the pipes sometimes spew filthy sewage-like water. With no security in place, women commuters told The Hindu they face harassment routinely at the entrances.

Near Raj Bhavan

Pedestrian subways near the Raj Bhavan and Basaveshwara Circle are closed. P.C. Ramesh , a government official said, “People were scared to go inside the subway. I haven’t seen anyone use it even when it was open.” He says that it was always dirty and unsafe. Antony Joseph, a taxi driver, says he has seen children crossing this very dangerous road. “They should get the subway running.” But Mahadevi, a 10th standard student, says that though crossing is dangerous, subways are unsafe, dark and desolate.

Hebbal

The subway near Hebbal is extensively used. Given the heavy traffic on the road, most commuters said it is a boon to them. Venkateshappa, a 58-year-old commuter, says: “The subway is helpful, particularly for older people.” However, he laments the fact that every now and then people throw garbage in the subway.

The subway, though better off than other ones, also begs for better maintenance.

The second subway near the CBI office is also used because pedestrians have no other way to cross the road, separated by a tall divider. However, it is poorly maintained.

Holding a kerchief to his nose, a doctor from the Veterinary Hospital and College nearby, said it is water-logged during rain, and reeks. R. Mutthulakshmi, who works across the road in a government office, had a more serious complaint.

She said that three days ago her colleague’s chain was snatched in the evening, and she is scared every time she uses the subway, pointing out that the lighting is poor.

(With inputs from Pravitha Kartha, Varun Ramesh and Vaseem Chaudhary)

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