As part of the Road Safety Week being observed in the city, pedestrians have raised the issue of poorly-maintained pavements on major roads. Several stretches of Anna Salai, Purasawalkam High Road, Velachery Main Road, Sardar Patel Road and others are found to have narrow pavements, rendered unusable by obstructions such as TNEB installations, dumped debris and broken surfaces.
In several parts of the city, pavements are misused as parking lots, forcing pedestrians to walk on the road. Walking on the city roads has become unsafe as a result. According to Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Sunil Kumar 200 pedestrians died in accidents in 2008 which works out to 32 per cent of the 630 fatal road accidents recorded in the city last year.
“Across the city one can find pavements lying unused and people walking on the roadside braving the rush of vehicles,” points out T.Venkat, a volunteer with the Walking Classes Unite, which undertakes pedestrian safety audits in the city.
If the city’s pavements were surveyed for its compliance with norms laid down by the Indian Roads Congress, most of them would fail to match up, says Venkat. According to IRC guidelines, pavements should be planned in an integrated manner so as to ensure continuous pedestrian flow.
The pavement width should be designed keeping the pedestrian traffic in mind. Considering the fact that places such as educational institutions, hospitals, bus stops and railway stations generate more pedestrian traffic, pavements should be wider here. It should be laid on both sides of the road and must be at least 1.5 metres long.
But in places such as the Teynampet signal or near the IIT campus, the pavement is as narrow as one-and-a-half feet. Rupa Chowdhurie, a student of Anna University, said she always found it hard to walk from university to the Kotturpuram bus stand as there was hardly any space for pedestrians on this stretch.
Raj Cherubal of City Connect, a non-governmental organisation backed by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), that has a tie-up with the Chennai Corporation to improve pavements, agrees. He says several pavements in the city are too high or too narrow and simply lie unused. This also explains why most of them get encroached on by small shop owners, he says.
Corporation Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni said, “We are doing our best to ensure that at least existing pavements are without obstruction and in usable condition.” He said they had already launched an experiment for developing a pedestrian-friendly road on L. B. Road in Adyar and was planning to extend the facilities here to other roads as well.
Mr.Cherubal said the project was still in the planning stage. “We plan to segregate different types of traffic and make utility strips on the road so that utility infrastructure does not interfere with pedestrian traffic.”
As for the condition of pavements on Anna Salai and other arterial roads maintained by the Highways Department, Chief Engineer P.Hariraj said land acquisition was a constraint in widening pavements. He said encouraging pedestrians to patronise subways in areas such as Kalaignar arch in Saidapet could help.
(Originally published in The Hindu, Chennai edition dated Jan 6, 2009)