Former mayor of Bogota, Enrique Penalosa, met senior government officials of Tamil Nadu on Friday, to discuss urban solutions for traffic problems and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.

Mr. Penalosa, who is the board president of Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), an international organisation promoting environment-friendly transportation, said this was the right time to implement such measures in Chennai.

Speaking to The Hindu he said there had been some improvement in the city as far as pedestrian facilities were concerned. He stressed the importance of distributing road space equally among pedestrians, bicyclists, public transport and cars.

According to him, the biggest problem in Chennai was the lack of good pavements. The city needed quality footpaths, a dedicated lane for public transport, and non-motorised forms of transport such as cycling, he said.

“Chennai can do it now and set an example. A good public transport system with dedicated bus lanes and discouraging parking are the only solutions to increase mobility and reduce traffic congestion in Chennai. Many developed cities, including London, do not allow parking even in office buildings. This reduces the usage of private motorised transport,” said Mr. Penalosa.

He said Chennai would grow by 500 per cent, in terms of area, in the coming years. “The growth of the city must be compact. This will reduce transportation charges. Planning regulations should be friendly towards pedestrians, and for this, political will is needed,” he said.

Shreya Gadepalli, ITDP’s regional director, said Chennai had taken the first step in implementing such measures. “The Chennai Corporation is on the verge of making Pondy Bazaar and Mylapore pedestrian friendly with proper pavements,” she said.

According to her, dedicated bus lanes alone were not enough. Chennai and other cities needed attractive high-quality bus rapid transit (BRT) systems that could carry millions of people daily.

Bogota, under Mr. Penalosa’s leadership, created TransMilenio BRT. “The system is growing in size by the year and is extremely popular among Bogota’s citizens. Hundreds of other cities across the world are creating thousands of kilometres of BRT systems to improve mobility and create a democratic transportation system,” she said.

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