Warning for Delhi pedestrians: Walk at your risk near construction sites
With the state and central governments carrying out multiple road infrastructure projects to decongest Delhi and improve traffic movement, pedestrian facilities are the first casualties at these construction sites.delhi Updated: Jan 31, 2019 13:39 IST
Walking along Benito Juarez Road, dotted with Delhi University’s south campus colleges, is a herculean task. Large parts of the arterial road have been dug up by the Delhi government’s public works department (PWD) for the construction of a skywalk for pedestrians and an underpass for smooth traffic movement.
But with pavements uprooted, the agency has not made any temporary arrangements for pedestrians. Shreya Gupta, a second-year student of Aryabhatta College, travels by the metro to her college every day. But it is the stretch from the station to her college that bothers her.
“The pavements are in a bad shape on the stretch between the station and the campus. Pedestrians are forced to walk on the road. We either take a cycle-rickshaw or take a longer route through the residential colony,” she said.
With the state and central governments carrying out multiple road infrastructure projects to decongest the city and improve traffic movement, pedestrian facilities are the first casualties at these construction sites. Most government agencies fail to provide temporary passages to pedestrians to safely use these road stretches.
The Integrated Transit Corridor Development Plan to decongest Mathura Road is yet another project where pedestrian safety has been compromised. The PWD is constructing cut-and-cover tunnels and an underpass as part of the decongestion project.
The agency has dug up pavements at various locations to carry out construction activities without planning any alternative arrangements for pedestrians, forcing them to walk on the roads. The situation is similar at the Bhairon Marg crossing, Sunder Nagar and Ring Road near Nizamuddin rail bridge on Mathura Road.
At the Bhairon Marg crossing, pedestrians prefer to cross the road at-grade by risking their lives, as one end of a foot-over-bridge at the location lands in a dug-up space. “There is no point in taking the FOB because the pavement has been dug up for construction work. Ultimately, I will have to walk on the road,” said Raman Srivastava (45), a lawyer at the Supreme Court.
The situation is no different at other sites where crores of rupees are being spent on infrastructure projects. But no thought is given on providing temporary pedestrian facilities.
Sewa Ram, professor of transport planning at the School of Planning and Architecture, said as per Union ministry of road transport and highways guidelines, there was a provision for a safety audit during the construction phase. The guidelines say the construction firm has to take care of vulnerable road users — pedestrians and cyclists — and make necessary arrangements.
“The construction agencies should demarcate a space for the hassle-free movement of pedestrians during construction. It can be done even at a site with less space with the help of time-sharing and method-sharing techniques,” Ram said.
But the norms are flouted by the agencies, he said.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is one of the few agencies that has always dedicated space for pedestrian movement along the road or at project sites. They even deploy a person to help people cross the road.
“When Delhi Metro can do it, why can’t other construction agencies? Making alternative arrangements for vehicular traffic is necessary but they should also think about pedestrians,” Ram said.
Umesh Mishra, chief engineer (projects), PWD, said: “We make alternate arrangements for pedestrians by separating lanes. We will still conduct a check if the practice is being followed.”
The ongoing construction of a parallel flyover at Rao Tula Ram Marg is yet another example of inconvenience faced by the public due to lack of arrangements by government agencies. The 2.7km flyover project has missed several deadlines and is nowhere near completion.
Residents of neighbouring areas such as Vasant Vihar, RK Puram and Munirka have no option but to walk along the arterial road, as pavements have been in most parts to accommodate heavy traffic.
“The flyover is important but this shouldn’t come at the cost of pedestrians. There is no pavement left for pedestrians, especially of my age, to walk,” said Ramesh Khosla (66), a resident of Vasant Vihar.
Gaurav Jangid, a road design consultant, emphasised the need to prepare a walkability plan before starting long term projects. He said that the Rights of Persons with Disability (RPWD) Act 2016 focused on accessibility and barrier-free movement during construction of projects.
“The agencies should prepare a temporary walkability plan before starting construction on site to ensure barrier-free movement…. UTTIPEC should to ensure temporary walkability plan is in place before giving approval to a project,” he said.
Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning and Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC) is the apex body to approve all road and transport infrastructure projects.
First Published: Jan 31, 2019 13:21 IST