HT’s report card of Mumbai’s footpaths
For a city where 51% of commuters’ daily trips are on foot, according to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) comprehensive mobility plan (CMP) in 2016, what is the condition of the walkways? Can the footpaths, which see pedestrians across all age groups and handle 60% of the trips towards a mode of public transport daily, handle the pressure? Hindustan Times, through its three-part series, tries to get the answers from the authorities, experts and commuters.
Since February 2019, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has spent ₹150 crore on footpath repairs. In January 2019, the BMC rolled out a first-of-its-kind exclusive policy, with guidelines for maintenance and repair of 3,000km of the city’s footpaths. The civic body also created a separate fund of ₹100 crore for footpath maintenance, as part of its budget 2019-20.
Vijay Singhal, additional municipal commissioner, who handles footpath maintenance and repairs that come under the BMC’s roads department, said, “While the budget 2019-20 allotted ₹100 crore, the BMC repairs footpaths alongside the road repair work. So far, road repairs worth ₹1,400 crore have been undertaken in 2019-20, and each time, the adjoining footpath, too, has been repaired, as mandated by the footpath policy. In the past one year, several civic policies have renewed focus on giving Mumbai good footpaths. We are doing everything within the constraints of narrow roads and old buildings.”
Despite the claims, HT’s audit of some of the busiest footpaths in the city found them to be in a poor condition.
Between January 18 and 21, HT audited 20 footpaths from the island city, eastern and western suburbs. Roads in the suburbs such as the ones leading to Kurla and Vikhroli stations, and many locations at LBS Road, SV Road, Linking Road had no footpaths. In some places, the footpaths were encroached upon by hawkers or illegally parked bikes. While the island city largely had footpaths in areas audited by HT, hawkers had encroached upon many of them. The paver blocks of some of the footpaths were broken, with the utility wires coming out of it, forcing pedestrians to walk on the road carriageway. A case in point was MC Jawale Road outside Dadar station West. It is an important road, as it connects Dadar station to Siddhivinayak Temple, which sees lakhs of devotees every day.
The footpaths across Mumbai are also discontinuous and very narrow.
The BMC, too, has admitted to the challenges of several semi-permanent encroachments such as hawkers’ pitches, parking of bikes on footpaths and unauthorised trenching. “The civic encroachment department must come down heavily on encroachments. But the BMC needs help from the traffic police too. A more dynamic and recent problem in many areas in the city is the Metro construction work, which has temporarily taken up portions of roads and footpaths,” said Singhal
Experts and urban planners termed the state of Mumbai’s footpaths “very bad”, and “not friendly towards pedestrians”. Vivek Pai, from the Mumbai Mobility Forum, said, “Mumbai sees a large number of people walk as part of their daily commute. Our city is going through a massive makeover, with focus on improving public transport. In such a case, the only option to make Mumbai a world-class city is to ensure it is friendly towards pedestrians. If it is not pedestrian-friendly, it will, by default, become a car-oriented city, and will lose its vibrancy. Good urban designs always promote walking and cycling.”
Pai said, “Mumbai is in very bad shape at present, and is a broken city when it comes to last- and first-mile connectivity. In the future, Mumbai will have a lot more pedestrians, as fewer people are expected to use cars due to Metros.”
Rohit Shinkre, academician at Rachana Sansad Academy of Architecture, said, “The solutions are very simple and to the point when it comes to improving footpaths in our city. Like how roads are for vehicles, footpaths are for pedestrians. That’s the principle we all should follow and increase the usage of footpaths. However, I agree there are issues when it comes to accessibility of footpaths.”
Shinkre added, “We can have hawkers on footpaths, but they have to be regulated by giving designated spots for hawking. We can’t afford to have unregulated hawkers for too long now. Also, when it comes to uneven surface of footpaths in the city, it is better if we keep the surface simple like by using concrete or asphalt on footpaths rather than using paver blocks.”
Singhal said the BMC was focusing on creating pedestrian-friendly spaces. “The BMC wants to create pedestrian-friendly spaces that can be accessed by all sections. This includes not just good footpaths, but standardised street furniture such as footpath railings, signages, lamp polls, bus stops and benches.”
Municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi recently directed assistant commissioners of all 24 wards to identify footpaths in their jurisdiction that can follow the pilot model adopted by the BMC for the footpath on MG Road in Fort. The model standardises footpath design, including surface, width, signages, and street furniture. Footpaths will be made in stamped concrete henceforth, to prevent uprooting of paver blocks.
The BMC’s roads department also carried out its own audit of footpaths in January. The three-part audit – for the island city, and the eastern and western suburbs respectively – has mapped all footpaths, and graded their condition as good or bad. While the report for the audit of island city’s footpaths is ready, the reports for the suburbs are being prepared. Based on the audit’s findings, the BMC has allotted a budget of ₹90 crore to repair footpaths in the Island city, and a similar sum will be allotted for each of the suburbs, Singhal said.