BENGALURU: Bengaluru city is devoid of a single pavement stretch where a pedestrian can walk comfortably, without stepping down on to the road either due to broken pavers, dumped garbage, missing slabs, parked vehicles, encroachments by hawkers, or delayed revamping work, complain citizens.
Footpaths and cycle lanes were called a “minority caste in the mobility pyramid” by Sathya Sankaran, founder, Council for Active Mobility. He said the major issue was that walking and cycling were not considered important by the government, which believed that only motor vehicles ran the economy.
Across the city, 100-Ft Road, 80-Ft Road and 11th Main in Indiranagar, Nagasandra Main Road, Whitefield Main Road, ITPL Main Road, Thippasandra Market Road, Tin Factory Junction, Commercial Street market areas, Sampige Road in Malleswaram, Jeevan Bima Nagar Main Road were a few roads called out for encroachments, garbage dumps or poor conditions.
Nisha S (name changed), a citizen who highlights mobility and civic issues in the city, complained that footpaths were not in a walkable condition for senior citizens, people with disability, children, or even daily commuters. She said footpaths had no uniformity in terms of elevation, width or continuity of footpath stretches.
Areas like Indiranagar are major tourist attractions in the city, and dysfunctional pedestrian infrastructure in such areas diminishes the city’s reputation, Nisha opined. Netizens also complained that Nagasandra Main Road has no footpath on either side and is heavily encroached, forcing them to walk on the road amid heavy traffic.
BBMP Chief Engineer (Road and Infrastructure) B S Prahalad did not agree with the city being completely pedestrian-unfriendly, and claimed that barring a few pathways, the remaining were in good condition. He agreed that work on pavements, like 100-Ft Road, is happening at a very slow pace, and shifting of services was one of the reasons for the delay.
City managers initially believed that road widening was a priority, hence, wherever they found space, roads were widened. In 2012, it was ensured that elevation and width of footpaths needed to be given priority to ensure walkability, Prahalad added.
Standardisation of footpaths is being followed, but there is still need for improvement, Prahalad said. Money is not a constraint, only bureaucratic delays are the reason for slow progress in development, he added.
Why footpaths come unstuck
Seeking anonymity, a civil engineer highlighted the issues with construction of footpaths. Each time a footpath is pulled apart for laying of cables or pipes, it is not repaired properly. Poorly compacted footpaths cause the pavers to get easily damaged, or the pavements to cave in. Construction is not done with a proper master plan, which leads to paths being dug up for a long time, he added.
He also said that footpaths did not have a standardised elevation, varying from 2 inches to 5 inches or even 9 inches high. He questioned the authorities for causing inconvenience to pedestrians and said they prefer walking on roads instead.
Citizens also raised the issue of encroachments on footpaths due to parked vehicles or hawkers hindering mobility. Shivkumar V Naidu, a social activist from Domlur, said people are not concerned about parking properly, and neither do they fear fines. When they are fined, they temporarily remove the vehicle, but park again as soon as the cops are gone.
The fine for parking on footpaths is Rs 1,000, and for wrong parking Rs 500, yet people often end up parking vehicles on footpaths and pay fines, said V Harish, traffic police inspector. He added that footpaths are often encroached by hawkers who fix their stalls in chosen places.
Removal of such people by traffic police is a temporary solution, and should be done by BBMP. However, to end encroachment, the lasting solution is to give hawkers a separate zone.