For the sorely-harassed pedestrians of Chennai, there is some good news. Two months from now, they are to get wide, well-laid, encroachment-free footpaths in several areas of the city.

The recent Chennai Corporation announcement of the construction of granite footpaths in 71 bus route roads is already seeing signs of fructification, with contracts having been awarded for some sections. In about 15 days, officials said, work will being and the first 15 footpaths will be ready soon.

Areas that will benefit include Anna Nagar, Tondiarpet, Royapuram, Adyar, Kodambakkam and Alandur.

Officials said that in order to ensure that the footpaths were user-friendly and of the best standards, organisations such as Transparent Chennai, Chennai City Connect and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) have been asked to pitch in with suggestions.

Transparent Chennai will begin a ‘Walkability Survey’ this week, which will look at existing pedestrian infrastructure and determine how safe footpaths are.

“We want to study all obstructions on footpaths. In some areas, footpaths are poorly lit and women find it unsafe to commute at night and so we will study the lighting issue as well. Also, we will hold meetings with residents and get inputs on how they want their footpaths to be. The survey will first be held in Anna Nagar and we will then move to other areas. We will do a pilot study and then put forward our ideas to the Corporation,” said Lalitha Subeeshna, of Transparent Chennai.

Chennai City Connect will bring in volunteer architects and along with ITDP, will offer recommendations to Corporation engineers.

Christopher Kost of ITDP said, “We recently held a workshop with the contractors and engineers and offered suggestions on how to design the footpaths based on the new guidelines from the Indian Roads Congress. We will also coordinate with Corporation engineers and Chennai City Connect to ensure that the work is carried out as per the design at the time of execution.”

All the new footpaths will have ramps to make them easy for people with disabilities to access and use. They will also have bollards to prevent two-wheelers from riding on them.

“To avoid obstacles on the footpath and make them continuous, we are coordinating with the Corporation to remove dustbins and electricity boxes and place them elsewhere. We will not pull down trees on the footpaths, but will work around them. But we will ensure new that new plants are not placed in the middle of footpaths,” said Kavitha Selvaraj, an architect and urban planner.

Residents across the city frequently travel by foot and so, the need to ensure footpaths are user-friendly is urgent, said Roshan Toshniwal, a researcher at Transparent Chennai. “During the construction of these footpaths, we will also ensure alternative arrangements are made for hawkers who, at present, use footpaths to sell their wares,” he said.

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