Anil Kumar Sastry and Swathi Shivanand
Bangalore, the city that once was a pleasure to walk in, has become one of the most pedestrian-unfriendly metros with no priority whatsoever for footpaths. Pity. Because we can still walk the talk if we put our minds to it
There are about 30 lakh vehicles in the cityOne-ways have only added to the woes of people
Bangalore: You can only sigh wistfully reminiscing about those days when Bangalore had sweeping, unclogged roads and wide footpaths. Now if you want to walk, beware! It could be an obstacle race.
You might have to contend with impatient two-wheelers which bump along on footpaths to avoid the long stream of vehicles on the road.
Or you may step over hawkers selling flowers or vegetables. And keep your eyes wide open for that dislodged or missing slab, lest you sprain your feet. Of course, more often than not, you will find the footpaths themselves missing.
As the city's population and vehicles increase exponentially, the pedestrian is losing the way in a sea of fearsome, criss-crossing automobiles.
Sadly, sometimes he or she ends up as a statistic in police records. The number of vehicles have grown from one lakh in 1976 to 30 lakhs in 2006. Instead of looking for appreciable alternatives, the administration has found it easy to shrink pavements to accommodate more vehicles.
The city administration's apathy towards pedestrian safety is glaringly visible in front of BBMP's central office at Hudson Circle.
The junction, where thousands of vehicles from all directions of the city converge and pass through, does not have even a regulated pedestrian crossing. Similar is the situation on many important roads in the city.
Lack of safe and protected pedestrian crossings on busy roads amplify the miseries of the walker.
Crossing the road has become a nightmare.
One-ways and absence of safe pedestrian crossings have only added to the woes of people. With prominent roads in the central business district now one-way, the threat to walkers has multiplied. As vehicles zoom, walkers find it difficult to cross the road and in the process risk their lives.
Except on K.G. Road, Residency Road, Airport Road, Seshadri Road and Jayanagar IV Block, no arterial road in the CBD has safe pedestrian crossings. The skywalks, wherever provided, are hardly used by the public as the footpaths are not barricaded.
The self-operated or "Pelican" signals, which were to have been used by pedestrians, are hardly functional. They are either non-functional and deliberately rendered unusable.
The BBMP, which is in charge of footpaths, regularly announces removal of encroachments and slapping of fines, worth lakhs of rupees. "Vendors are the major encroachers of footpaths. We evict them every other day. But they keep coming back. The other encroachers are shopkeepers whose products spill over onto the footpaths. Our only alternative is to keep up our drive constantly," N. Jayaram, Joint Commissioner (Enforcement), BBMP, told The Hindu .
There are other offenders too: those who park their vehicles on footpaths or use them for gardening. Ensuring adequate parking spaces is also the BBMP's responsibility. Having failed utterly to provide them, the BBMP now proposes to create more multi-level parking complexes. The multi-level parking complex on J.C. Road remains unutilised most of the time. Another complex, the Garuda Mall, is more of a shopping centre than a parking place for the public as was originally envisioned.
The issue of hawkers encroaching footpath space has been flogged to death in umpteen meetings of city councillors.
Upgrading markets have been mooted as solutions. But this has not worked in most cases.
One reason for this is that the badly-designed markets do not give enough visibility to all vendors.
Moreover, the Bangalore Development Authority, the planning agency of Bangalore, until now has not designated any hawking zones in the city.
At a recent interaction with citizens, BDA Commissioner Shankarlinge Gowda said such zones would be incorporated in the new Master Plan 2015.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic-East) M.A. Saleem suggests a comprehensive package to solve the problem of footpath encroachments.
The traffic police has recommended provision for sub-ways and skywalks at 105 accident-prone places in the city.