Now, a plan for pedestrians
There is an urgent need to increase ‘walkability’ in Indian cities so that people can move around safely and comfortably
Walking is one of the most efficient, affordable, and environment-friendly forms of mobility in the city. While long distances can be covered by other means of transport, shorter distances have to be traversed only by walking. Whether it is to or from the Metro station, the bus stop, the parking lot or anywhere else, walking is perhaps the only alternative available. Everyone is a pedestrian at some point of the journey undertaken by any means of transport, public or private. Therefore, the pedestrian link is the most important ‘last mile connectivity’. Unfortunately, this is the most neglected aspect in Indian cities.
What are the advantages of walking? These are many. Walking needs little space, it improves health and well being, it increases interpersonal interaction, makes the city lively, reduces dependency on motorised forms of transport, reduces con- sumption of fuel and is the most clean mode of mobility. The neighbourhood, too, is safe if there are many people walking on the roads. It also makes cities more liveable.
The need of the hour, therefore, is to design city master plans keeping the needs of people in mind, conduct pedestrian surveys, identify pedestrian intensive areas, identify corridors of heavy pedestrian movement, destination walking, strolling, health walking, walking to retail areas, recreational walking, walk areas for school children, walk areas for office goers etc and accordingly design these areas with specialised requirements. A pedestrian policy, plans and programmes, design interventions and implementation, all through consultations are urgently required. Pedestrian ways need to be identified and designed, bearing in mind special requirements of the physically challenged, the elderly, women and children. Comfort, safety and aesthetics are important too. Planners also need to keep in mind weather conditions in Indian cities and incorporate appropriate design features to protect the pedestrians from harsh sunlight. Safety at night is equally important, particularly for women. All the above considerations are to be kept in mind at the outset while designing cities. All these factors should be integrated into the overall urban design scheme of the city.
There are a large number of cities in the developed world such as the US, Canada and Europe where Pedestrian Master Plans are being prepared and implemented. These have emerged as an integral part of the overall master plan of the urban area. Most cities have walking clubs were pedestrian communities meet regularly and articulate their needs and participate actively in the preparation of such plans. Economic activities, hawking and street vending are well integrated into such a plan. In our country, unfortunately, little planning goes into it as pedestrians are seen more as an obstruction to traffic than anything else! We seem to be trying to remove people from the roads instead of enouraging them to walk!
It is high time that the authorities in Indian cities take cognisance of these issues and initiate appropriate action.