Civic Sanskriti: A welcome stride towards making streets walkable

Pune has declared December 11 as Pune Pedestrians’ Day and events include rally at the pedestrians’ plaza in Aundh, a welcome stride towards making streets walkable
Pedestrians walking on an encroachment -free footpath in Aundh in Pune. Pune has declared December 11 as Pune Pedestrians’ Day and events include rally at the pedestrians’ plaza in Aundh, a welcome stride towards making streets walkable. (HT FILE)
Pedestrians walking on an encroachment -free footpath in Aundh in Pune. Pune has declared December 11 as Pune Pedestrians’ Day and events include rally at the pedestrians’ plaza in Aundh, a welcome stride towards making streets walkable. (HT FILE)
Published on Dec 07, 2021 06:06 PM IST
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BySanskriti Menon

Pune: On November 15, 2021, an order was passed by Hon’ble Justice Najmi Waziri in the Delhi High Court. The order asks the engineers of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation to traverse the entire colony’s footpaths on a wheelchair without any aid or assistance from anyone, to test the efficacy of efforts to make the streets and footpaths user-friendly. “The constitutional guarantee of freedom of movement should not be hemmed-in by the lack of requisite civic amenities”, the order says.

The concern of the high court is relevant in almost all Indian cities and has prompted the Sustainable Mobility Network of India (SUM Net) to give a call for a National Pedestrians’ Day.

Pune has declared December 11 as Pune Pedestrians’ Day. Among the events planned for the day, a unique rally at the pedestrians’ plaza in Aundh would interest the honourable judge, and of course Punekars.

Sugamya Aundh

The “sugamya”, which means “universally accessible”, design of ITI Road, Aundh will be celebrated with the rally, in which people in wheelchairs, families with prams, and those with shopping carts and wheeled luggage are expected to participate.

The street design efforts in Aundh by Prasanna Desai over the last few years have included several rounds of discussions with citizens, “Streets for People” workshops, and live demonstrations supported by Centre for Environment Education. So far about 2km of streets in Aundh have been re-designed as part of the Smart City projects and other streets have work in progress.

Architect and urban designer Prasanna Desai, who has been instrumental in the Aundh street designs and the citizens’ participation efforts says, “The message of Sugamya Aundh is that all our streets can and must be user-friendly. Accessible, safe, comfortable streets are a human right.”

Sugamya Aundh is part of the Pune Pedestrians’ Day, declared by the mayor, and being celebrated on December 11, Saturday, through events and refurbishment of pedestrian facilities. Vijay Kulkarni, head of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) road department, is leading the preparations for Pedestrians’ Day.

“On major roads, the department is arranging to repair and clear footpaths of obstructions, trim overgrown vegetation branches on footpaths, repair subways, streetlights, and signage”, he has informed.

Open street mall

A central attraction will be a day-long pedestrians-only “open street mall” at Laxmi road. Punekars will be able to experience the stretch from Nagarkar Talim chowk to Umrya Ganpati as a lively space for some peaceful window or real shopping, without fear of being knocked down. PMC is requesting visitors and staff of shops and offices to avoid bringing their bikes and cars. Public transport utility Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd (PMPML) will arrange extra buses to help reduce traffic jams and parking woes.

New pedestrian facilities

At Pashan Sus road, a new cycle track and footpath have been developed by PMC as part of the “Streets for People” initiative of the ministry of housing and urban affairs. These facilities will be inaugurated on Pedestrians’ Day along with plantation at this site.

The road department, with design inputs from the NGOs Parisar and ITDP, is developing safer midblock crossings including raised crossings, zebra crossings, and signage on Senapati Bapat road, and improving the footpath and junctions on Prabhat road and Gulvani Maharaj Road in Kothrud.

Walking happiness index

Over the past few days, students from the Aaayojan College of Architecture have been supported and guided by experts from SUM Net and NP Associates to assess eight selected streets for the safety and comfort of pedestrians. The results will be shared on December 11 and a “Walking Happiness Index” will be launched by PMC with the scores for Pune for 2021.

Transport planner Pranjali Deshpande who designed the index says “Walking Happiness is a combination of the safety, comfort and pleasure of pedestrians. The index is not a technical audit. It has ten simple parameters that anyone would be concerned about while walking.”

The efforts by PMC and civil society groups like Parisar and Save Pune Traffic Movement are laudable and give hope for the safety and comfort of pedestrians. There is a long way to go since Pune has around 2,000 kilometres of streets and less than 10% have been re-designed with some measure of pedestrian-friendliness. The Pedestrians’ Day is an occasion to celebrate and appreciate PMC and citizens’ collaborative efforts over the past few years and to renew the commitment to inclusive, safe streets.

Sanskriti Menon is senior programme director, Centre for Environment Education. She writes on urban sustainability and participatory governance. Views are personal. She can be reached at civic.sanskriti@gmail.com

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