A smooth pavement to walk on, no shanties or hawkers forcing you off the footpath, and all food stalls, street shops, trees and bus stops neatly aligned to the side of the pedestrian section.
This ideal, picture-perfect footpath may be hard to find in Mumbai, but if the plan proposed by city-based think tank Urban Design Research Initiative (UDRI) is successfully implemented by the civic body, such pavements could soon be a reality.
As a part of a larger project called the Fort Management Plan Initiative, a team from UDRI has spent the past two years surveying and mapping every road and footpath in south Mumbai’s busy Fort district.
On the basis of this research, it proposed a series of recommendations to the chief minister and municipal commissioner last month, which include re-engineering existing pavements, fitting them with ramps for senior citizens, demarcating pedestrian and utility zones on footpaths and converting some roads into pedestrian-only spaces.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) then agreed this month to implement some of these recommendations as a pilot project throughout Fort, in consultation with UDRI. If successful, these plans will be replicated in more areas in the city.
“A sensible civic policy should give pedestrians the first priority on roads, followed by public and then private transport,” said Pankaj Joshi, executive director of UDRI who believes the opposite has usually been practiced in the city so far.
The think tank chose Fort as its area of study because it is a central commercial hub to which people from all over the city travel daily, and thus represents the woes that pedestrians suffer from in other areas as well. “Improving Fort would make a difference to the whole city,” said Joshi.
The Fort Management Plan project was initiated by the UDRI in 2009, and the report published this year comprises a detailed analysis of four civic issues in Fort: heritage management, solid waste management, traffic and transport and open spaces, of which pedestrian spaces form a crucial part.
The recommendations proposed, says Joshi, are practically and economically viable for the civic body. “Re-engineering footpaths by fitting ramps and allocating organised utility zones is a part of the BMC’s work and budget already, but they need to implement it in accordance with international standards,” said Joshi.
On routes that see a heavy flow of pedestrians walking to and from offices, UDRI has suggested having pedestrian-only zones during peak hours, with retractable bollards — metal posts — embedded in the roads to barricade vehicles.
The project report also suggests clearing out a number of open garbage dumps in the middle of Ballard Estate in Fort, to create space for a food plaza comprising relocated pavement hawkers.
“Implementation of these suggestions would not cost the civic body a lot,” said Joshi.