After taking up a project to develop three arterial roads in the city to world class standards, the Highways Research Station (HRS), an arm of the Highways Department has started studying pedestrian movements and crossings at locations close to railway stations and at important junctions.
“We are studying pedestrian vulnerability on the roads. The two-year study will look at people crossing roads, walking on footpaths or road sides and those getting out of vehicles to walk. We are also looking at pedestrian facilities or the lack of it and how they can be improved. Two sets of data are being collected and finally, each location will be analysed separately,” said a source at the HRS.
The locations include CMBT, T. Nagar, Egmore railway station, Central railway station, Perambur railway station, Guindy, Chromepet and NSC Bose Road.
“The data will help us plan better facilities for pedestrians including footpaths, change signal timings to suit the conveniences of both pedestrians and motorists and find better spots for crossing roads,” the official said.
Presently, many roads either lack footpaths or have very narrow strips that do not serve the purpose. On roads that are being maintained by the Highways Department, the footpaths are broken in several spots or are encroached upon by shops or hawkers.
“Walking on pavements has become very strenuous as there are too many obstructions. Sometimes when subways are flooded with water, pedestrians are unable to use them,” said M. Subramanian, who commutes to Anna Salai daily.
Raj Cherubal of City Connect, who welcomed the study, said one of the big pieces missing in Indian road design is the pedestrian data. Most city roads that lack pedestrian facilities are unsafe and inconvenient for the hundreds of people that use them. “There are places where people want to cross the road. They don’t want to walk a kilometre just to cross the road. When roads are designed, studies must be made as to where they congregate and where they cross. We need to look beyond laying tar and the barely adequate footpaths,” he said.
Ravi Damodaran of Citizen for SAFE Roads said that only when footpaths are created would people be encouraged to use them.
“At present many people do not have the habit of using the facilities that we have. For instance, there is a subway in front of the Central Station but many people prefer to run across the road,” he said.
The study team is looking at various factors including pedestrian comfort levels at spots where the space for walking has been occupied by hawkers, shops or even vehicles. The first round of data is being collated currently.