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Saturday, 4 February 2012

Pedestrians find themselves on edge

 WALKERS’ PITFALLS: Pedestrian access to major public transit terminals is very poor, says a study. A scene on Pantheon Road, Egmore, on Tuesday. Photo: S.S.Kumar

Among 21 Asian cities in which ‘walkability' index study was carried out, Chennai came last

With pedestrian footpaths either non-existent or unusable, Chennai's roads are among the least conducive walking spaces in the country, said Pawan Kumar, Associate Town and Country Planner, Ministry of Urban Development.

Quoting from a recent study (June 2011) undertaken by the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities (CAI-Asia), an NGO, Mr.Kumar said that Chennai scored a mere 47 out of 100 on a ‘walkability index.' Among 21 Asian cities in which a similar ‘walkability' index study was carried out, Chennai came last. “What is worrying is that within Chennai itself, the least walkable spaces are in the vicinity of public transit terminals,” he said.

Speaking here on Tuesday at ‘Municipalika,' an international conference on sustainable cities, Mr.Kumar said: “In most Indian cities, about 20 to 40 per cent of daily trips are by foot. A significant share of the investment made on mass transit systems must go towards providing pedestrian access. Cities must give space for walkers.”

On the question of safe pedestrian road crossings, Mr.Kumar again quoted from the CAI study. In a field survey among pedestrians, which was part of the study, 48 per cent of respondents said they prefer a ground-level crossing. “Technocrats might keep proposing expensive skywalks. But may be that's not what the people want. Decision makers must learn to listen to the people.”

Reflecting on the social equity aspect, he pointed to a study by Future Capital Research, a think-tank, which showed that poor and lower income families spend over 20 per cent of their monthly income on transportation. Mr.Kumar said that at least for their sake, cities must improve pedestrian infrastructure.

Dilipkumar Mahajan, Deputy Commissioner, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, spoke about the success story of the city's Bus Rapid Transit System ‘Jan Marg' (which means ‘People's way'). Erwan Bizien of Parkeon, an on-street parking solutions provider, spoke.

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