Pedestrian-friendly road and transportation infrastructure is gaining popularity across the world, including many Indian cities. Not so in Kochi, where pedestrians risk being knocked down by vehicles or getting trapped in broken slabs.
Pedestrians in the city have to battle against odds like non-existent, uneven and narrow footpaths, shops and vendors encroaching on their space and obstacles like telephone junction boxes and transformers covering the width of footpaths. This despite the fact accepted globally that walking (and bicycling) minimize carbon emissions by lessening fuel usage, air and sound pollution.
Road congestion too decreases when people shun private vehicles for short trips and decide to walk. “Pedestrian-friendly footpaths and road crossings would encourage people to rely on public transport ,” said Lissiamma George. Narrow footpaths in Vytilla, Menaka, the Broadway Market and the Children's Park-Rajendra Maidan stretch, where there is very high pedestrian density, force people to walk along the road. Even worse, vendors and shopkeepers have encroached on the footpaths. If not for construction materials and debris dumped on the side of many roads, vehicles are haphazardly parked, posing danger to pedestrians.
City-based Centre for Public Policy Research had carried out a pedestrian audit in Kochi a couple of years ago. “No footpath in the city conforms to norms fixed by the Indian Roads Congress (IRC). The worst affected are elderly people and people with physical disability. The IRC has specified the type of tiles that must be used, the slope, kerb, grading of footpaths etc.,.”
A PWD official said that a skywalk with lateral links to side roads has been proposed in Vytilla.
The State Road Safety Authority has proposed a foot overbridge in Kaloor and a few other busy junctions. The PWD had submitted many projects to the State Government to ensure tiled, pedestrian-friendly footpaths and roads in Kochi, but funds were not allotted.
Encroachers can be removed if the agency owning the road, the Corporation, Revenue Department and the police jointly initiate a rule-enforcement drive, he said.
Leave alone foot overbridges, most junctions and busy stretches in the city do not even have zebra lines where pedestrians have the right of way.