Road-widening projects are not unusual, but chances are you have never heard of a footpath-widening project in Mumbai.
Well, Mumbai is now officially lagging behind, because the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) has already completed a pilot project that has delivered wide, green, wheelchair- and pram-friendly footpaths on three Thane streets and plans to construct a total of 30km of such footpaths across the city over the next by March 2012, under the Harit Janpath (Green Footpath) project.
The project was conceived by municipal commissioner RA Rajeev in mid-2010, to make the city more pedestrian-friendly, given that about 40% of its 18 lakh residents use public transport and, therefore, spend at least part of their commute walking to and from drop points.
“Our cities’ streets are designed for motorists, with almost no thought for pedestrians, even though they make up a majority of the people actually using those streets,” says Rajeev.
“I wanted to address the issue, once and for all, of narrow, broken-up footpaths in Thane city.”
In July, the TMC general body passed a resolution on the project and allotted it a budget of Rs10 crore. Four MLAs from Thane have also contributed Rs25 lakh each from their area development funds towards the cause. For additional funding, the TMC decided to rope in private companies, offering them free advertising space along the footpaths in exchange.
The first footpaths to be developed as part of the Harit Janpath pilot project were the stretches along the Teen Hath Naka service road. This area is a bustling transport hub that also houses residential buildings and schools and was one of the key areas identified during a survey of pedestrians conducted by the TMC last year.
Work began here last November and was completed in January, with most of the funding supplied by a private developer. The footpaths here were originally 3 ft wide and highly fragmented, with no pavements at all in parts. Now, there are uninterrupted, 6-ft-wide pavements running all along both sides of the 95-metre stretch, laid with concrete rather than paver blocks.
“We realised that paver blocks are easily displaced and are cumbersome for people in wheelchairs or pushing prams and for elderly or visually challenged people who walk with the help of a stick,” said Rajeev.
The Teen Hath Naka service road footpath now also has lush shrubs growing along both sides, and a smooth, gradual slope at either end, to make access easier.
A separate parking bay has also been constructed adjoining the footpath.
“It is a useful project and a good initiative,” says Anita Farde, corporator of Thane’s Ward 67, which houses Teen Hath Naka.