Reducing the distance between foot overbridges by building more of them is part of the solution

Early this year, a staff photographer watched in horror as a bike crashed into a group of girls on Rajiv Gandhi Salai (the IT highway, also popular as OMR). In a dash to beat the gong at a technical institute in Taramani, they had tried to cross the road at an undesignated point.

Had they walked a little ahead and taken a foot overbridge, the trip to the institution would have been event-free. Fortunately, these girls paid a small and bearable price to gain this wisdom. About two months ago, a pedestrian, who ignored a foot overbridge and took on the traffic on the IT highway, was not so lucky.

Certain stretches on OMR — especially the one from Madhya Kailash to Tiruvanmiyur MRTS station — allow vehicles to move smoothly. Given the speed, reflexes of motorists are put through a tough test when people jump traffic medians. Often, during late hours, foolhardy pedestrians dart out of the ornamental plants and trees that line the median, taking motorists by blinding surprise.

At any time of the day, the 11 foot overbridges that dot the roughly 13-km stretch from Madhya Kailash to Sholinganallur-Semmencherry are under-utilised. Pedestrians clambering over the green median and crossing the road, right under a foot overbridge, is not a rare sight.

Bypassing facilities offered for safe navigation is inexcusable. Without defending wilful offenders who turn a blind eye to foot overbridges just a hop away, it pays to examine why such facilities are rebuffed.

The 11 foot overbridges on OMR are spaced at distances of over a kilometre, roughly. Given this equation, the foot overbridges are seldom within quick reach when one needs them. And often, time, more than will, to go that extra yard may be lacking.

Yes, there are designated points for crossing the road, where the median dips and allows pedestrians right of passage. But there are no markings or signs to indicate these points and motorists don’t ease up on the pedal when approaching them. These provisions make sense only if accompanied by traffic volunteers — especially during rush hour — who can stop vehicles and facilitate easy movement of pedestrians.

Reducing the distance between foot overbridges by building more of them is part of the solution. It is also necessary to look at subways. OMR does not have any. A good number of us don’t use foot overbridges unless going up one is the only way out of a place. Railway stations are a classic example. Given a choice between a foot overbridge and a subway, I’ll choose the latter — though, using either involves the same expenditure of energy. It’s purely a psychological thing.

The time is right to introduce subways or other road-crossing aids on OMR — especially on the 26-km stretch from Siruseri to Poonjeri, where road-widening work is expected to begin shortly. Too much delay in execution may prove costly in the long run.

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