Rampant encroachments have also contributed to shrinking pedestrian space in several stretches of arterial roads

Seventy-year-old Sambasivan fondly recalled how, 40 years ago, he used to hang out with friends at a popular eatery on Mount Road. “It used to be a pleasant affair then. We would walk down after a movie and have ice creams. The footpaths on Mount Road used to be broad and pedestrian-friendly. But now there is too much traffic and every footpath is crowded with shops, vehicles, and cables, making it almost impossible to walk,” said the senior citizen.

Mount Road or Anna Salai, as most of the 28-km long road is now known, is one of the city’s lifelines. Like 43 other roads within city limits, totalling a length of 251 km, it is maintained by the State Highways Department.

Just three of these roads — Grand Southern Trunk Road (Anna Salai), Grand Western Trunk Road (Poonamallee High Road) and Jawaharlal Nehru Salai (Inner Ring Road - IRR) — see a combined total of 5.3 lakh vehicles a day, making them vital links to parts within and outside the city.

The volume of pedestrians the roads cater to is also huge. For instance, in and around the Koyambedu bus terminus alone along the IRR, over 18,976 pedestrians have been counted during peak hours in a single day.

“Though the footpaths around Koyambedu are good, people urinate on them making it extremely difficult to walk. Lighting is also not sufficient on this stretch. The government could consider installing pavement-level lights at such places,” said Hariharan, a resident of Thirumangalam.

A total of 19,978 pedestrians use the Guindy subway on GST Road per day. However, due to Metro Rail work pedestrians here have been put to a lot of hardship. Elumalai, a visually-impaired resident said: “I find it very difficult to walk on the footpath as in a lot of places it has been damaged due to Metro Rail work. There are also many other obstructions and I have to learn to avoid them.”

Rampant encroachments have also contributed to shrinking pedestrian space in several stretches of these three arterial roads alone. For instance on GST Road, on an 800-metre stretch from the Pallavaram bus stand towards the airport, there are so many encroachments that the footpath is simply not accessible,” said Jayaraman, a resident.

“Encroachments are not removed as frequently as they should be. Many are temporary, such as shops, mechanics repairing bikes, construction material dumped or electric cables,” he said.

Other roads like those from Velachery to Tambaram and the Thoraipakkam–Pallavaram radial road are worse off — they do not have footpaths at all.

“These roads are being widened at present and once the work is completed, pedestrian facilities will be created,” said a source at the highways department.

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