A time to re­think the BRT sys­tem

En­vis­aged as a pro­ject in the in­ter­est of pub­lic health and road safety, the BRT sys­tem has sev­eral pit­falls

HT Estates - - HTESTATES - Dr Shi­fa­lika Goenka and Dr Safraj Shahul Hameed

Re­cent re­ports in­di­cate that the Gov­ern­ment is think­ing of in­tro­duc­ing more Bus Rapid Tran­sit Sys­tems (BRT) in Delhi as a so­lu­tion to the prob­lem of traf­fic con­ges­tion. By do­ing this the present gov­ern­ment will only be re­peat­ing the mis­takes of its pre­de­ces­sor. One only has to visit the ex­ist­ing BRT from Moolc­hand to Ambed­kar Na­gar (and the ad­join­ing colony roads which peo­ple use as a thor­ough­fare to avoid the BRT) to ex­pe­ri­ence first hand the hor­rors of this sys­tem. The BRT was con­structed by de­stroy­ing ‘wide pedes­trian path­ways, wide cy­cling lanes, (which also acted as a safe­guard for pedes­tri­ans) and huge trees. Th­ese trees pro­vided shade, oxy­gen and con­trolled the over­all tem­per­a­ture. Pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists are lit­tle ben­e­fit­ted from this ‘so­phis­ti­cated and sci­en­tific’ trans­port sys­tem. The wide pedes­trian and cy­cling paths ex­ist only on pa­per. In prac­tice th­ese are nar­row, un­safe, un­us­able and used by mo­tor cy­cles. More­over, the ab­sence of trees has re­sulted in scorch­ing sum­mer tem­per­a­tures. Con­se­quently, cy­cling and walk­ing have be­come dif­fi­cult and te­dious.

In­tro­duc­ing ad­di­tional BRTs amounts to fur­ther re­duc­tion of pedes­trian paths in the city in favour of ve­hic­u­lar roads. To put it sim­ply, roads can­not be widened at the cost of pedes­trian paths on ac­count of sev­eral per­ti­nent rea­sons. Coun­tries like UK have streets, where the pedes­trian paths on each side are wider than the road (for e.g Ox­ford Street in Lon­don). This fa­cil­i­tates the habit of walk­ing which i n

turn is cru­cial for phys­i­cal well­be­ing. Phys­i­cal in­ac­tiv­ity is as harm­ful as smok­ing and ac­cord­ing to WHO the fourth largest cause of deaths glob­ally. In­ci­den­tally, In­dia is the di­a­betes cap­i­tal of the world and more than 60% of deaths are due to non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases. Hence we should have sys­tems in all facets of life that dis­cour­age seden­tary life­styles. This is one huge ar­gu­ment that goes against the ex­ist­ing BRT sys­tem. The em­pha­sis in In­dia should be to cre­ate en­vi­ron­ments which pro­mote phys­i­cal

ac­tiv­ity in daily living.

Spa­ces and in­fra­struc­ture that in­te­grate phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity with the daily rou­tine and life­style of the av­er­age man is the hall­mark of ev­ery in­tel­li­gent ur­ban de­sign plan. So be­fore con­sid­er­ing any road de­sign, the in­ter­ests of pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists need to be con­sid­ered. We need to make walk­ing, and cy­cling, safe, de­sir­able and ac­ces­si­ble for all age groups, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren.

To de­crease con­ges­tion, al­low built up and com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity to com­men­su­rate with what the roads can ser­vice. The ‘con­structed por­tion’ should be con­sid­er­ably set off from the bound­ary. Also it is im­por­tant for civic au­thor­i­ties to dis­al­low il­le­gal com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity and con­struc­tion. De­vel­op­ment of new cit i es and t own­ships should be pro­moted not only with of­fices and fac­to­ries. They should in­clude schools, col­leges, art cen­tres, parks, sports fa­cil­i­ties and wide (un­en­croached) cy­cling pedes­trian path­ways shaded with trees.

We need con­text- spe­cific so­lu­tions and not blind ap­ing of the west­ern designs. There is no point in de­vel­op­ment if our chil­dren can­not live long enough to see the fruits of de­vel­op­ment.


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