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Walking the tightrope

delhi Updated: Jun 13, 2009 01:20 IST
Avishek G Dastidar

Not owing a car in Delhi could cost you life or a limb.

In the Capital, which has the highest number of cars among all Indian cities, walking could be downright fatal, a new study has said.

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), an NGO working on environmental issues, has found that in Delhi pedestrians account for around 47 per cent of all fatalities on roads. And that is highest among all big cities in India.

Reason: Delhi is not designed for those who do not own a car and depend on walking.

After surveying 10 localities — residential, commercial, recreational, etc., in the city, CSE has found that pedestrians are invisible in the maze of motorised traffic that chokes the roads; they walk in "extremely unsafe and hostile conditions", in constant conflict with cars and are easy victims to crashes and accidents.

"Around 34 per cent of the workforce here walks to work. That's a huge number of people exposed to the risks of accidents and fatalities, thanks to zero-facilities for walking," said Anumita Roy Chowdhury, associate director, CSE.

As a result, the collective dependence on public transport in Delhi — an answer to air-pollution and congestion — has dropped from 60 per cent to 43 per cent in the recent years.

At places like Connaught Place, most walkways have been given away to authorised/unauthorised parking lots, the study says.

In residential areas, sidewalks do not have any universally accepted design or height, discouraging pedestrians to use them. There are areas where sidewalks have been encroached upon by urinals, labour shelters, shops, etc.

And at so-called "down-market" areas like Seemapuri or Govindpuri, pedestrian facilities are plain missing.

For a city readying itself for the Commonwealth Games next year, the study is meant to serve as a wake-up call, says CSE.

The much contentious Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor from Ambedkar Nagar to Moolchand in South Delhi is, according to the study, "the only place where walking is a safe and hassle-free experience".

As a solution to this in the run-up to the Games, the CSE on Thursday proposed regular "safety and walkability audits" of roads to a group of stakeholders, including the Public Works Department, Delhi Urban Arts Commission, Delhi Development Authority and Central Road Research Institute — all engaged in building road infrastructure.