With barrier-free footpaths, DU is a pedestrian’s dream
For most students of Delhi University’s (DU) north campus, taking a walk from the Vishwavidyalaya metro station to their respective colleges and departments, has become a delightful experience in the last few years.
With well- maintained footpaths and visibly fewer potholes and pitfalls on the entire Chhatra Marg stretch, a large number of students prefer to walk rather than taking cycle-rickshaws or e-rickshaws.
Most of the colleges and departments in DU’s north campus are at a walking distance even when it is not a “closed campus”. On any normal working day, students can be seen walking from one college to another during breaks between their classes.
Sandhya Singh, a second-year student at the Hindi Department, said the condition of the footpaths and roads in the campus has completely transformed.
“I was in Miranda House during my graduation. Every day we would go to Delhi College of Economics for lunch. Though the distance between the two colleges was less than a kilometre ,it would be an unpleasant walk because of the broken footpaths. The footpaths on the stretch have become extremely smooth now,” she said.
But this wasn’t the situation until a few years back. According to Ankit Sharma, a visually challenged student at the History department, the pavements on the Chatra Marg stretch were “not walkable” when he had joined the university in 2014. “There pavements were not levelled and the tactile guiding paths were incomplete at many places,” said Sharma.
In 2016, Delhi University’s equal opportunity cell (EOC) had approached the Public Works Department (PWD), Delhi traffic police and North Delhi Municipal Corporation, requesting them to make the university’s north campus’ footpaths and roads “universally accessible”. The university said all footpaths in the campus should allow wheelchair users to easily navigate and reach their colleges or departments.
The university had also desired that footpaths should have tactile guiding paths— a system of textured ground surface indicator found on footpaths, staircases and platform— to assist visually impaired students to walk to their respective colleges and departments.
“Things have changed now. The road has become much more accessible for the visually and physically challenged students now. Earlier, there was no space to sit and even the benches were installed at large distances” Sharma said.
On the university’s request, the PWD had installed sitting spaces along Chhatra Marg by modifying the parapet walls in 2017.
The Dean of DU’s equal opportunity cell (EOC) Bipin Tiwari said a lot has been done to make the campus “universally accessible” but they still fall behind in a couple of areas.
“Though the tactile guiding paths are already in place the footpaths are not wheelchair friendly as of now. There is a menace of illegal parking at several places,” he said.
Senior PWD official Rajiv Khare said that the department has been facing several hurdles in making the footpaths “wheelchair friendly”.
“There are many hurdles like pillars and trees on the footpaths in the north campus and hence it becomes difficult for us to make them completely accessible for wheelchairs. We are trying to figure out the solution and have also sent some suggestions to the Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning and Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC),” he said.
Khare said that another major issue the PWD faces to make the campus completely universally accessible” is illegal parking of vehicles on the footpaths. “Hundreds of vehicles can be seen parked on the pavements across the campus during college hours. We have requested the Delhi traffic police multiple times to look into this. The footpaths will remain inaccessible for everyone as long as they are being used for parking,” he said.
Delhi Traffic Police Special Commissioner Taj Hassan said they are working to curb the “parking menace” in the campus area.
“We hold drives regularly to remove the vehicles parked on the pavements. But this has to be addressed in a planned way. The PWD needs to installed bollards to make the footpaths inaccessible for the vehicles,” he said.
The PWD has already installed bollards outside the college and faculty gates to prevent “illegal parking”.
Ashok Bhattacharjee, former director UTTIPEC, said bollards can help to curb the “parking menace” on pavements but there should be a distance of 1 to 1.2 metres between them to allow the movement of wheelchairs.
“It’s a design issue and should be taken care of by the agencies responsible for constructing and maintaining the roads and footpaths,” he said.