Improving walkability index

Several external factors are influencing a person’s decision to walk and addressing these concerns is essential.

Updated - July 22, 2022 12:41 pm IST

Published - July 21, 2022 07:57 pm IST - KOZHIKODE:

The skywalk across Rajaji Road connecting the Mofussil bus stand and V.K. Krishna Menon Indoor Stadium in Kozhikode can be accessed using elevators, escalators, or stairs.

The skywalk across Rajaji Road connecting the Mofussil bus stand and V.K. Krishna Menon Indoor Stadium in Kozhikode can be accessed using elevators, escalators, or stairs. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

For all of Kerala, footpaths usually mean a set of slabs laid over drains on both sides of a road. The condition of footpaths in Kozhikode city has been no different, until recently. 

The newly renovated roads, in the last five years, under the City Road Improvement Project (CRIP) have paved footpaths with hand rails, which ensure pedestrian safety to a great extent. Most of the important roads in the city now have broader paved footpaths. Arguably, it is not the condition of footpaths that makes Kozhikode one of the least pedestrian-friendly cities. 

Pedestrians account for 14% of the total deaths in road accidents in Kozhikode based on the traffic police data of 2021. “There is a severe lack of traffic discipline in Kozhikode and motorists rarely pay attention to a walker,” says Regional Town Planner Isha P.A. Crossing a road here is a risky act, even with the now elevated zebra crossings, she says. 

On the other hand, Kozhikode has a well-wired network of lanes that enables a person to walk from the Beach to the Medical College, without ever using the main roads (other than crossing them once or twice), only if they choose to.

“Several external factors are influencing a person’s decision to walk on these bylanes, such as safety and security, and addressing these concerns is essential to improve the walkability index of these lanes,” says Rajina Rahiman V., an architect and urban designer whose research at the National Institute of Technology, Calicut, focusses on walkability in Kozhikode city. 

The safety concerns include speeding vehicles, broken drain slabs, hanging electric and telephone wires, and garbage dumps on the wayside. The presence of anti-social elements, such as chain-snatchers and drug peddlers, besides stray dogs also act as deterrent to walking. Add to that the water-logged roads or the scorching sun in the summer months.  

Ms. Rahiman says proper drainage systems and shade trees along pathways can improve walkers’ experience. She feels that developing public spaces, improving their aesthetics and, at the same time, ensuring safety will encourage more people to walk. 

The mofussil bus stand, Palayam and Mananchira have been identified as the busiest places in the city and more pedestrian-friendly measures have been implemented at these places lately.  

Vehicular traffic has been banned on S.M. Street, the busiest shopping street in Kozhikode close to Mananchira, for the last six years. The paved road, in the absence of vehicles, is as pedestrian friendly as it can get. The foot overbridge on Rajaji Road that connects the Mofussil bus stand and the Krishna Menon Indoor Stadium has been replaced with a skywalk with escalators on either side.  

It’s been a hit with pedestrians. “It suits our laziness. Now that we don’t have to take the stairs and can use either an escalator or a lift to get to the skywalk, it is well-utilised,” Ms. Isha says. However, the only well used traditional foot overbridge in the city is at Medical College, only because it is connected to the casualty ward, she says. 

The subway that connects all the four roads at Palayam, the busiest junction in the city, which had been in a state of disuse for over a decade, has now been renovated into an art gallery. The new look has helped attract the public to take the subway across the road, at least to take a look at the works of art. 

“Such developments can instil a sense of pride and belonging among the public, which will encourage them to venture out more on foot, to enjoy the surroundings,” says Ms. Rajina.

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