Chennai’s lost, neglected pavements

Pavements have become regular pathways for motorists to drive on.

Pavements have become regular pathways for motorists to drive on.   | Photo Credit: M. Karunakaran


City compares poorly with others in investing on non-motorised transport infrastructure

A sad lack of respect for pavements gives grief to pedestrians in Chennai. Well-laid pavements with bollards are quickly vandalised, making them convenient for vehicular parking and for two-wheelers to whiz past. As a result, pedestrians are forced to walk on the roads, endangering life and limb.

Pavements with paverblocks and granite stones were laid on the Rajiv Gandhi Salai for pedestrians a few years ago. Today, the pavement, supposedly dedicated for pedestrians to walk safe, has become a regular route for motorists to drive in reckless manner, rendering its original purpose invalid.

“There are no clear pavements here for pedestrians. Everywhere, footpaths have been damaged due to vehicles and other encroachments. A part of the service road was used by people to walk. Even on that, we now have lots of encroachments in the form of Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) cables and autorickshaw parking. It is a maze. Pedestrians have to negotiate all these hurdles to reach their destination,” said Harsha Koda, co-ordinator, Federation of OMR (Old Mahabalipuram Road) Residents Welfare Associations.

Velachery worst-hit

The situation is much worse on the 100 Feet Road in Velachery, which is one of the densely populated areas in the city. S. Kumararaja, the Velachery Annai Indira Nagar Residents’ Welfare Assocition said, “During peak hours, motorists are least bothered about pedestrians as they run their vehicles on the pavement, without giving space for pedestrians to use the area demarcated for them.”

Social activist Traffic Ramasamy said neatly laid footpaths and pavements were broken at several places in the city or, since they have been encroached upon recklessly, pedestrians are forced to walk on the busy roads.”

In the heart of city — in Egmore, Royapettah and Triplicane — footpaths are encroached upon by garages, parked two-wheelers, bunk shops, iron shops, signboards of shopskeepers, mannequins, hawkers and innumerable other encroachments. Sometimes, even a police patrol vehicle is parked on a pavement. The long stretch of pavement from Pallavan Salai to the Central Railway Station is scarcely used by anyone who walks, and is instead used by homeless people with no other options by way of shelter, to sleep at night.

Even in Pondy Bazaar, with its “fancy” walking space, two-wheelers have slowly encroached upon the vast area of pavements.

K. P. Subaramanian, former professor in Anna University’s Urban Engineering Department, said, “Walking is a green mode of transport with minimum energy consumption and zero emission. It’s inexpensive and immensely healthy. Nevertheless, it is neglected in favour of motorised modes [of transport]. About 85% of the transport infrastructure investment for Chennai city is expended on roads, bridges and flyovers, and an insignificant percentage of around 10% is spent for walking infrastructure. Chennai compares poorly with Delhi and Hyderabad, for those cities invest about 45% and 40%, respectively, on non-motorised transport (NMT, that is, walking and cycling) infrastructure, as per 2010 data from the Ministry of Urban Affairs.”

Chennai was among the very few cities in the country to adopt the NMT Policy in 2014, which mandates a minimum of 60% of its capital budget be allocated to NMT infrastructure. Chennai is a compact city with mixed land use, an ideal precondition for walking, for shorter trips, and as a feeder mode to go to or return from railway stations/ bus terminals/ stops.

Targets unmet

Accordingly, the Corporation, with a holistic and forward-thinking project, set an ambitious target to retrieve about 70 roads from encroachments, and widened footpaths even when this required reducing the road width, with a substantial investment.

However, those projects did not yield expected results.

Improved footpaths are very handy and helpful to eateries, hawkers and shoppers to encroach. The city has about 54 lakh two-wheelers and 12 lakh of four-wheelers, whereas parking space available is only for 3 lakh vehicles.

Professor Subramanian said, “The awful inadequacy of parking space cannot be a justification for indiscriminate parking, and that too on footpaths, because parking is a commodity and not a right that can be demanded, like road space itself. Therefore, parking space should be purchased by the vehicle owner or it should be facilitated by the concerned shopper or enterprise. The Corporation or the government are not obliged to provide it.”

‘Will initiate action’

In light of the above, members of the public are sceptical about the inability and failure of the authorities to prevent misuse of public properties. The Greater Chennai Corporation, in co-ordination with the Traffic Police, as a first step, should seize vehicles parked on footpaths and go ahead with the continuous upgradation and building of footpaths in tune with the NMT Policy. A senior Traffic Police officer said, “We are constantly removing encroachments whenever we receive complaints, either from the public or the Chennai Corporation. We will initiate action against motorists who park their vehicles on the pavements, damaging public property meant for pedestrians.”

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 11:44:59 AM |

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