‘Clear improvement in air quality on Church Street on pedestrianised weekends’

Pedestrian footfall, sustainable modes of transport such as metro also received push by the initiative, says report

September 25, 2021 02:19 am | Updated 02:29 am IST - Bengaluru

A file photo of Church Street in Bengaluru on a weekend.

A file photo of Church Street in Bengaluru on a weekend.

A clear improvement in air quality was recorded on Church Street on pedestrianised weekends in terms of the PM10 and PM2.5 concentrations, which were within the limits of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for most of the weekends, revealed authors of a scientific report on the pedestrianisation of Church Street.

Titled ‘Church Street First – Impact Assessment of Pedestrianizing an Urban Street in Terms of Quality of Life’, it was prepared by IISc Sustainable Transportation Lab in collaboration with DULT, Urban Morph, and Catapult, U.K. The report was released on Friday in front of the Namma Metro’s Church Street entrance.

“This report is an outcome of almost 10 months of relentless and extraordinary effort between November 2020 and August 2021, right from extensive field data collection and studies on this test,” said Ashish Verma, convener, Indian Institute of Science, Sustainable Transportation Lab.

Prof. Verma said the air quality index using the Central Pollution Control Board formula was also within satisfactory and good limit for most of the weekends.

Terming the impact assessment as one never been done before in India or elsewhere, he said it was done using both quantitative and qualitative indicators and covering the three main pillars of sustainability — environment, social, and economic. “The quantitative indicators considered were: air quality, pedestrian, level of service, boarding and alighting at public transport stations, and street cleanliness and maintenance. The qualitative studies done were sentiment analysis on social media comments and captions, visitor’s opinion on pedestrianised street and its impact of quality of life, and most importantly opinion of shop owners of Church Street on the pedestrianised street,” he explained.

The researchers noticed that between November 2020 and February 2021, the average daily footfall on Church Street increased by 92% and the average peak duration footfall increased by 117%. From the survey responses, 97% visitors and 84% shop owners were satisfied with overall service quality of Church Street after pedestrianisation.

Further, more than 50% of restaurant owners and gift shop owners of Church Street agreed that the initiative led to an increase in customer footfall, revenue, and overall positive effect on business.

But this agreement level was comparatively lower for other types of businesses, leaving some scope for future improvements and strategies, he added.

“It was heartening to see that pedestrianisation led to a 7% decrease in the mode share of personal modes [of transport] and an equal 7% increase in the mode share of sustainable modes among visitors. The number of metro users at M.G. Road station on weekends saw an increase of 162% between November 2020 to February 2021,” explained Prof. Verma.

While the sentiment analysis showed at least 78% social media statements on this initiative were positive, overall, there was a 98% agreement that pedestrian friendly environment improved quality of life.

Call for reintroducing it

At the event, speakers from across political backgrounds and government departments batted for the reintroduction of the concept on Church Street. BBMP Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta said though things went for a toss due to COVID-19, he called it a “brilliant idea that needs to be continued further”. He also said a similar design was being replicated at Commercial Street, another “iconic street” in the city.

While Shanthinagar MLA N.A. Haris said it needed to be restarted again and many more roads should come up along similar lines where people can walk. He added that objections of shopkeepers need to be taken into consideration.

Bengaluru Central MP P.C. Mohan, on the other hand, said at the time of reintroducing pedestrianisation, local residents should not be put to hardship.

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