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BENGALURU : Bengaluru is known not just as India’s Silicon Valley but even as the Running Capital, believes Bangalore Runners group with about 20,000 members. A mandate has been written by the Bangalore Runners group to the recently elected government, demanding runner-friendly infrastructure and preservation of green, open spaces in a city infested with concrete constructions.
Broken or missing footpath, speeding vehicles
When Naresh Kumar and his running group set out from Kadugodi to KR Puram on weekday mornings, they find no space for a pedestrian to stand, let alone run. Main roads are painful, they say, fraught with danger of speeding vehicles and pollution.
“We run in the direction opposite to traffic movement, so we can at least see which vehicle is coming towards us, to avoid being hit! Footpath is not kept open for walking or running here. They are occupied by street vendors or two-wheelers riding over them. If given a chance, autos will also park their wheels on the pavement,” says Naresh.He feels that traffic is safer near the KR Puram hanging bridge.
“Footpath riders get irritated seeing runners and walkers. They think footpath is their birthright. Hope Farm Junction is a hassle for runners due to ongoing Metro construction. It is no longer possible to even stand there. We try to run on Old Madras Road but it again is too risky, as the footpath is uneven. Drivers are trying to overtake other vehicles and someone might just slip off the pavement,” Naresh points out.
His concerns are shared by other runners who spoke to CE. They demand for walkable, runner and cycle-friendly continuous trails in Bengaluru.
Lack of running trails, lakes encroached too
Unless it is a posh area, say near the Chief Minister's house, one cannot expect to walk freely.
“Given the population density, the ratio of people to open spaces is very less. Running trails are few and if one has to do a speed run, they have to go all the way to Cubbon Park or Kanteerva Stadium. Children, athletes and those running for wellness, do not have good sports infrastructure,” says Sanjay Kumar, who lives and runs in Sarjapur. He provides an alternative for running around lakes, but they too suffer encroachment.
“The lakes are only supported by citizens. A few of us spend our own money for maintenance, security of lakes such as Kaikondrahalli and Kasavanahalli. Our tax money is fuelling plane rides of politicians, or used for giving freebies to a select group of voters!” says a disgruntled Sanjay.This is why, one of their manifesto demands is earmarking funds to develop and maintain water bodies. They also demand connecting lakes through Rajakaluves, through running/cycling trails.
“The Kaikondrahalli Lake's NGT buffer zone has been violated by buildings, constructed right up to the fence. What used to be rajakaluves connecting to Kasavanahalli Lake, has been encroached by three to four properties. These companies and apartments release their sewage here, stinking up the lake. Garbage dumping by BBMP invites scavengers,” Sanjay says.
Citizen behind runner’s mandate
Shilpi Sahu, who took inputs from the group and wrote the Runner's Manifesto, says, "The only aspect of Bengaluru that is runner friendly is weather. Not just top runners but even amateur runners with day jobs run here. Everyone needs open spaces to walk to office or for kids to play. Lifestyle diseases such as poor eyesight, obesity and depression can manifest from sitting inside always."
“The amount of constructed versus open spaces is imbalanced. A single Cubbon Park cannot offset our carbon footprint. The way authorities envision traffic and movement is wrong. Traffic should not mean vehicles but people. Cities are built to accommodate us and not cars. It is suicidal to run in spaces such as Whitefield or Sarjapur Main Road. Pedestrian deaths occur now and then, so there is no question of running,” she says.
1.Tree shaded avenues with local species, to be mandatorily planted along every major road.
2. Walkable and cyclable path. Earmark wide and safe footpaths as per international standards.
3. Funds to develop and maintain water bodies in the ward.
4. Plan for exclusive running/cycling trails connecting parks and lakes along rajakaluves. The stipulated buffer zone can be converted to reserved green area with lush forest. This will also ease traffic, by encouraging people to walk/cycle to their destination.
5. Push for the rejuvenation of Bellandur and Varthur lakes
6. Large parks such as Cubbon Park to be made free of vehicular traffic 24×7.
7. Ensure personal safety of visitors at these parks and lake trails.
8. Funds to build stadiums, playgrounds and training centres such as Kanteerava Stadium in each ward, for better accessibility of budding sports persons, instead of driving to the very few limited options at present. Existing sports infrastructure can be upgraded with synthetic tracks and good toilet facilities.
– The manifesto is compiled by Shilpi Sahu
Drive far off to find running space
Jothi Padmanabhan runs from Bannerghatta to Lalbagh and he observes once good running spots are no more. “It is a cause-and-effect situation. Due to the dangerous condition of Bannerghatta Main Road, where footpaths are interrupted with perpetual construction work, runners have stopped running there. They might drive up to a far off space such as Lalbagh to run,” says Jothi. “In JP Nagar, roads are extremely narrow and footpaths are a myth. Development surrounding Sarakki Lake has happened over 10 years, allowing shops and flats to eat up remaining open space," he says, adding that he does not have the confidence to run on footpaths anymore, due to missing slabs or broken surfaces.