In Gurugram, Shankar Chowk’s pedestrian-friendly design axed as road custodian objects
A group of transport and road safety experts on Monday gave Shankar Chowk a pedestrian friendly makeover. The intersection has a reputation for being unsafe with multiple deaths of vulnerable road users being reported from the spot over the past two years.
However, the experiment could not last long as real estate developer DLF, the custodian of the road, objected to the redesign of the junction and ordered the removal of an “end-to-end” pedestrian pass.
The pass had been created by members of the Raahgiri Foundation and Haryana Vision Zero, a group of experts who work in collaboration with the state government to reduce road fatalities.
Late on Sunday night, members from both organisations designed a “tactical urbanism solution” at the intersection to provide safe passage to about 10,000 pedestrians who use the junction every day without any infrastructure to safely navigate through the high-speed traffic. They used bright colours and patterns to draw the pedestrians’ attention and indicate the road section as a space meant for their use.
The solution involved using bollards to demarcate a section of the road at the junction as a pedestrian pass which allowed people to safely cross the road between DLF and Udyog Vihar. The nearest foot overbridge is about a kilometre away from the Chowk, and is sparsely used.
During the morning rush-hour, people actively utilized the pedestrian pass. the new road design also led to some vehicular congestion as the motorable section had become narrow, confirmed an official with the Gurugram traffic police, not wishing to be named.
At about 10.30am, DLF representatives arrived at the site and removed the barriers, allowing normal vehicular flow of traffic to resume.
While the organisers expressed dismay at this development, DLF spokespersons cited reasons of safety and official protocol due to which they objected to the design changes which had been implemented.
A senior functionary in DLF said, “We were not informed of the experiment in advance. As we are maintaining the road, such design changes need to be approved by us and by
Aecom, our infrastructure consultant. Moreover, the pedestrian space had been demarcated on the main carriageway, which is a safety risk.”
Shankar Chowk, however, is one of the city’s most accident-prone spots due to high volume of pedestrians and signal-free traffic movement.
Twelve pedestrian fatalities were recorded at Shankar Chowk between 2016 and 2018, the second highest in the city, according to data provided by the traffic police. Last year, there were
six fatalities and eight non-
fatal crashes reported at the intersection.
“There are three major and 13 minor conflict points around Shankar Chowk. It is a prominent black spot in the city’s traffic network,” said Sarika Panda Bhatt, founder of the Raahgiri Foundation and a member of Haryana Vishion Zero.
“We have carried out this experiment with success in Rohtak and Panchkula. It is a bit disappointing to see that such a public interest initiative is being thwarted,” Bhatt said.
She added that she and other members of the Raahgiri Foundation would meet DCP (traffic) Himanshu Garg in the coming week to discuss how and where such mobility experiments can be conducted in the future.