How safe is our pedestrian? - on Chennai’s road traffic safety

In 2014, Chennai adopted a non-motorised transport (NMT) policy to prioritise walking and cycling. A great example for other Indian cities, the policy resulted in redesigning 100 km of streets with wide, walkable footpaths and a network of cycling tracks. By 2018, the government aimed at building safe and continuous footpaths on at least 80% of all streets, increasing the share of walking and cycling trips to over 40%, and, most significantly, eliminating pedestrian and cyclist deaths (

But we’re far from this target. And as stretches of the Metro Rail project in the city are gradually opening — leading to changes in traffic movement — the need for safe infrastructure for those on foot becomes crucial.

In numbers

In May this year, the Chennai Corporation decided to scale up and develop an NMT Master Plan, to create focussed infrastructure for pedestrians, but we’re yet to see any formal announcement of what’s in store.

As of 2018, Tamil Nadu had around 25 million registered motorised vehicles (growing annually at 2.5%), surpassing the State’s population growth. While personal motor vehicles — two-wheeled as well as four-wheeled — account for approximately 90% of the total vehicle fleet, they serve only 28% of the daily trips made by people in the State, says a report by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.

In sharp contrast, 67% of all trips are made on foot, cycle, and public transport — and yet we lack basic facilities such as wide walkways, subways and pedestrian crossings.

How to make our cities walkable
  • - Regulate the number of cars and bikes getting on the road each year
  • - Set strict norms to regulate their sales to ensure fewer vehicles on roads
  • - Regularise parking zones
  • - Create inclusive and safe public transport options for individuals with disability, the elderly, children and women
  • - Design walkable neighbourhoods
  • - Allocate pedestrian crossings, overhead bridges and subways
  • - Encourage cycling

On Anna Salai

If we look at the Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) corridor on Anna Salai, on the approximately 7 km stretch from Gemini Circle to LIC-Anna Salai, apart from the station at Thousand Lights, there are barely any subways or designated pedestrian crossing zones. The one near Anna Flyover has been closed for over a year (due to construction of the underground Metro line) and intersections at Thousand Lights and LIC lack regulated crossings.

Pedestrians risk their lives and jump over medians or walk through heavy oncoming traffic to cross these busy junctions. After close to seven years, the Anna Salai stretch (between Thousand Lights and LIC) has now become two-way: this might be making vehicular movement easier, but it is a nightmare for those walking along these roads.

How safe is our pedestrian? - on Chennai’s road traffic safety

Even in T. Nagar, where the pedestrian plaza will be formally inaugurated next month, residents and visitors are wary of the enforcement of parking rules. The wide footpaths and tracks created for walkers and cyclists are already being encroached to park vehicles.

Road fatalities

Across the world, road traffic deaths are reaching alarming levels each year. Close to 1.35 million people lose their lives in traffic accidents annually, but India’s road safety is the worst on record ( Last year, close to 1,49,000 people died on Indian roads.

Our country accounts for about 2% of motor vehicles globally, yet it’s responsible for more than 11% of road traffic deaths. Pedestrians and cyclists are the most vulnerable and it is important to note that the former constitute a higher share of total fatalities in cities where pedestrian facilities do not meet the demand (

For example, although the national pedestrian fatality share is 13% of road accidents, cities like New Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata have pedestrian fatality shares greater than 40%. It is high time we invested in making non-motorised transport a safe and viable affair for all.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2021 2:57:33 AM |

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