‘They are unsafe and a haven for anti-social elements’

Earlier this month, a pedestrian who tried to cross the arterial Bellary Road near the CBI office was run over by a car. She had reached halfway and was trying to negotiate the 2-feet-high road divider when tragedy struck.

Why did Ameena Shaikh, a call centre employee, not take the pedestrian underpass? Because it was 6.30 a.m. and she did not feel safe in the dark and dank subway. Even in the best of times, most of our pedestrian underpasses double as toilets, get flooded when it rains, and are a haven for anti-social elements.

The Hindu team visited the pedestrian underpasses at K.R. Circle, Nrupatunga Road and the CBI junction on Bellary Road and none of them passed muster. With most lights not functioning, it was no wonder many pedestrians risk their lives by darting across busy roads instead.

Women’s voices

Smita S., who was crossing the road in front of St. Martha’s Hospital even though the pedestrian underpass was just a few metres away, said she found the underpass impractical. Gayathri J., a senior citizen, said it was difficult for elderly persons like herself to use the stairs in the underpasses.

“Besides, it is dark [in there] and I would rather just cross the road,” she said.

R. Vanajakshi, a government employee, said due to poor lighting, underpasses had become a haven for anti-social elements. “When it rains, the underpasses often get flooded.” Divya M.S., a student, was darting across the road near the University Visvesvaraya College of Engineering. She did not use the underpasses as it was “unsafe.”

Safety in numbers

Of course there are the few who do use the facility. Radhika M.K. said she did so only because there was no other option to cross the road there. The trick was to cover the nose, look down and walk as fast as one can. And then there are some women who do so only in groups. “It is only during the day and when we are in groups that we use the underpass,” said Golma, a student.

It is not just women who feel the underpasses are unsafe. Obulesh Sake, branch manager, State Bank of India, City Market, said the underpasses were deserted in the evening, especially after 7.30 p.m.

The usual noises

A senior Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) official, when contacted, conceded that all the city’s pedestrian underpasses were in a poor condition. Without commenting on the failure of the civic authority in maintaining the underpasses, he blandly said the BBMP would soon improve the underpasses.