Why are the footpaths wide on Tender SURE roads?

Bengaluru has seen many experiments in urban space management. Tender SURE is one of them that is hitting headlines of late. The idea of Tender SURE was born when the Bangalore City Connect Foundation (BCCF) funded and co-ordinated the design of the Tender SURE concept in the year 2009 and implemented a pilot project on Vittal Mallya Road.

After the pilot project’s implementation, the BCCF joined hands with the Government of Karnataka (GoK), the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (BMRCL), to implement the project on a few more roads. The technical assistance for the project was given by the Indian Urban Space Foundation (IUSF), now known as Jana Urban Space Foundation (JUSF).

In 2012, the Karnataka government decided to implement the Tender SURE design for around 50 roads. BCCF offered to prepare Detailed Project Reports for 15 roads in the Central Business District area, and to review the designs done by BBMP for the rest of the roads.

With the construction of Tender SURE roads kicking off across Central Bengaluru, criticism against the roads has also gone up. V Ravichandar of BCCF tries answering some of the questions surrounding Tender SURE, in this article.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Editor


Being an ardent proponent of Tender SURE (Specifications for Urban Road Execution) as the roads of the future for Bengaluru, one has lost a lot of motorist friends! One gets accosted with loads of objections about the new age road project in Bengaluru. Here is the response to the most frequently mentioned objections:

Honey, these folks have shrunk the vehicle lane…

Yes, the lanes have shrunk by 4-7 feet depending on road widths but they are uniform across the road stretch. If we accept X + Y = Z as a finite equation, and if roads are to be designed around the pedestrians and cyclists, something has to give in, and in this case it is the vehicle lane width.

Currently, every spare bit of road is asphalted and given away to vehicles. But this is grossly inefficient apart from being wrong – there is enough scientific data to show that vehicles that go out of lane to return back to it end up delaying everyone down the lane chain.

Vehicles will move more smoothly and faster with uniform lanes. Given the challenges in land acquisition, Tender SURE checks out the minimum right of way within a road stretch and plans for the uniform motor lanes based on that.

Here’s a factoid to think about. The St Marks Road width from SBI to MG road is 9.6 metres (3 one way lanes). My friends indicate that this is an arterial road and we need more road width for motorists. This is more than the one way lane at MG Road! Comparing with one-way lanes across the city, the St Marks road would be among the top 5% road lengths in terms of lane widths while having the maximum footpath space.

Sewer, electricity, water and all other utilities will exist under the footpath on a Tender SURE road, thereby eliminating the risk of frequent digging up of the road. Pic courtesy: V Ravichandar

Why so much importance to Pedestrians? That’s not me…

Roughly one pedestrian dies on Bengaluru roads every day. Pedestrian is as important a mobility mode as vehicles. Over 50% of trips in a day are either fully or partly on foot. The invisible lower middle class and the poor use the non-existent footpaths. Nothing about our road designs takes the pedestrian into account.

A civilized society takes care of its vulnerable groups – on our roads that would be the pedestrian. Good pedestrian paths make for healthy lifestyle – by the end of next year one can walk from Trinity circle on MG road to Cubbon park on Tender SURE footpaths. That should surely count as progress!

Why so much width for pedestrians?

The underground utilities are all planned under the pedestrian walkway. So consider the width required in laying Sewerage pipes, Water pipes, Power cables, OFC / Gas cable ducts, Storm water drains, alongside – it does need a fair amount of space! And then there are some massive trees on some of the walk ways. We need to preserve that too and also provide for pedestrians to walk on the footpath without having to step onto the road.

And if you think the utilities along the ‘motorable’ roads are ok, the jutting BWSSB manholes across our city putting everyone at risk and slowing down traffic should make you think again. Isn’t it smarter to take them utilities below the pedestrian paths?

Pedestrians ok, but where are the cyclists?

Yes, it takes a very brave individual to take their cycle on our roads. But build the safe passages for them and they will come. Copenhagen has over 70% cycle usage with supporting infrastructure. It’s got a zero carbon footprint and a sustainable mode of transportation even after our fossil fuels dry up. And Bengaluru has the weather that cries out for us to take out our cycles for short commutes.

Coming back to my car, what about parking spaces?

Our roads are already clogged and it’s going to get worse with over 1,500 vehicles being bought per day. There is no hope for the future unless we embrace public transportation (rail, bus, shared cabs, autos) and alternate modes (walking, cycling) on a large scale basis. In London at the iconic Shard building there are no parking slots except for handicapped persons. The message is clear – you are welcome, your personal vehicle is not. So once again – parking is not a birthright that the city needs to or can deliver on. The city needs to focus on other mobility modes (including walking) and public transportation investments are critical.

Traders say their business will get hit…

The competition for trade on the road is the mall experience. It’s in their interest to have pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, if they are to leverage their open Bengaluru air advantage. Even in extremely popular food street at VV Puram, vehicular traffic (which can easily take alternate routes between 8 pm to 11 pm) is allowed through the narrow street teeming with pedestrians. There is data from European countries to show that areas that have gone fully pedestrian have seen a two to threefold increase in their footfalls and business. Our High street retailers have been short-sighted when it comes to embracing pedestrians.

Tender SURE roads are too expensive!

Yes, the capital cost is high because 65-70% of it goes towards provisioning underground utilities. But in life cycle cost terms, the payback over a 7 to 10 year period is better than our current road model of the need for repeated repairs every 6 months. And we are not accounting for the serious loss of productivity, fuel consumption due to the pot holed nature of our roads.

But these roads are taking so long to build!

Yes, they could be executed faster and better. There are challenges in building them—there are no maps on current underground utilities; entry / exit to premises have to be provided through the construction, existing utilities have to work while the new roads are being built; it’s a first of its kind project leading to new challenges being encountered and the incessant rains last year have not been helpful. Yes, there is scope for further technical improvements, better implementation and can happen in case the powers that be decide to extend the Tender SURE project with its core principles elsewhere in the city.

The BBMP and Police says future roads will be more private vehicle-friendly…

That’s for the citizens to be the judge and decide. We have 13,000 kms of BBMP-built and maintained roads. 9 kms are currently being built as roads of a different kind that respects and provides for pedestrians and cyclists too while ensuring vehicular movement does not suffer.

One is unable to understand the vehement objections to a pilot stretch that is less than 0.001% of our roads. If it is a flop show as many predict, we always have the current, presumably ‘well-honed’, BBMP road building and maintenance model where we can be stuck with our existing road network forever!

A last parting shot

In due course, experts will say we need monetary congestion charges for the city centre like London, Singapore. Think of Tender SURE as a physical congestion charge that embraces multiple mobility modes.

Related Articles

What’s this Tender SURE all about?
Here are the serious issues about TenderSURE you should be worried about!
NBF asks BBMP to desilt drains, repair footpaths and expedite TenderSURE

About V Ravichandar 5 Articles
V Ravichandar is a Bengaluru-based civic evangelist. Full disclosure: Ravichandar is an advisor and one of the investors in Oorvani Media Pvt Ltd, that runs Citizen Matters website. Opinions expressed are his own.

9 Comments

  1. For way too long, our cities have been designed only for vehicles. For those lamenting that footpaths are empty, should realize that as we develop better footpaths across the city, more people will come out and accept walking as a safer n better way of moving around.

    Many cities are even more congested than Bangalore (like New York, Hong Kong, Tokyo), but nowhere is the right of the pedestrian compromised wrt to the vehicles. You may be forced to sit in a traffic jam in London, but the width of footpath is not reduced.

    It is high time we build cities for our pedestrians. Even if it takes a while to pick up, so what. Let’s give footpaths a chance before eating up all the space for cars

  2. Its all very noble that you want to create footpaths and better services. But the fundamental question for me is- THE ROADS/FOOTPATHS IN THE CITY CENTRE ARE OF A RELATIVELY GOOD QUALITY- WHY COULD’NT TENDER SURE BE IMPLEMENTED FOR THE ROADS THAT ARE IN A HORRIBLE CONDITION AND DOES’NT HAVE FOOT PATHS ?? Also if you look at the Indian mind-set foot paths are never used for walking even if its present- people always tend to walk on the road- can this design address this issue?? Eventually the wide footpaths would get encroached by hawkers/squatters- Has the design tried to include them? Do you have designated hawker zones? Its very rosy to look at Copenhagen-Amsterdam and romanticize- but their socio-economic-cultural-governance is very different and rather impossible to replicate. We need to design roads according to CONTEXT and not COPENHAGEN.

  3. @raghu ram..one thing for sure, we are no different from any other country..our problems are not unique nor the sollutions needed..its just how we implement!

  4. And before I forget. Please visit Vittal Mallya road when it rains. The so-called pilot project before TENDERSURE.The whole road is brimming with water.I wonder who designed it. Just across the road is the defunct lake/pool of Cubbon Park – werent the authorities competent enough to design it such that the rain water flows to the lake in cubbon park. It now flows in the opposite direction – towards the Shell Petrol bunk.As I said, I can take all of the people on a tour of the mess that has been created – atleast they wont be living in lala land. Take a look at all the Left Turns on the TENDERSURE roads, near St Marks Rd->Mg Road junction or near MountCarmel & Palace Road junction. They have been made so wide that it is impossible for two traffic streams to merge without collision.so , the concept of a FREE Left has been completely done away with – for anyone wanting to go left, they have to wait for the Signal to turn green, adding to the Traffic at the junction. I can go on and on – I have made minute observations of this whole gig called TENDERSURE

  5. Dear Sir – De-congestion, Public Transport, Bus lane, Auto Lane et al have been tried out. Infact, the Commuter rail project report from Sept 2014 is gathering dust in SWR zonal headquarters. When all these were known, who in the right mind would have approved this. No Parking, No Stopping, No Honking – all these signboards have no value, no one cares, no one bothers – this is India.The bus bays that have been made in the TenderSure roads are being conviniently used for Auto Stands. The wide footpaths are now parking places for 2/4W, do you think our already stressed police force has time to enforce rules – anyway, who cares, it is a matter of 100 Rs. I only pity the ordinary traffic constable and junction jockey (woman many a time) who man the traffic – definetely they have lost 20% of their lifespan breathing the polluted air, while everyone else in the cars is with the AC on and idling the engine, waiting for the neverending RED to turn GREEN. I am willing to take the respected people on a tour of the TENDERSURE roads in my vehicle at my cost and show them the mess that they have created, imagining Bangalore to be Europe. Please wake up – this is India and Bangalore. Be realistic and pragmatic in solving problems, not building castles in the air.

  6. I think the idea has some positives. It says that the cause of congestion is the variable width of the road for vehicles. That is true. Another thing is that we need to see traffic signs which distinguished “no parking” from “no stopping”. A stopped vehicle also causes narrowing of the road and causes congestion. If we could use the variable width of the road for giving place for vehicles to stop/park we could utilize the space better. After a few years all these wide footpaths will see a number of vendors taking away the walking space. Talking about public transport, people will take to public transport if it is economical, available and punctual. The current scenario is that neither of the three points are true. This makes it impractical. I think just making the roads is not solve the problem. One has to address the root cause of all problems to deal with it. The de-congestion of the city also means to move the business centers out of this place as they are not located in the right place first of all. How can BBMP permit establishment that will attach a lot of people to be situated in a place where there is a no-parking area. Buildings should have adequate space to get permission to run a business, or else even stopped vehicles for loading and unloading of goods will cause congestion.

  7. As a regular user of the “TenderSURE” roads, I can only lament about the approach being talked about.The traffic piles up from Ashirwadam circle to Anil Kumble Circle in the evenings, so much so that the police have to divert the traffic towards brigade road sometimes.The comparision with European models where density of population and uniform modes of transport exist should not have been done for a city like Bangalore. This idea is good on paper, I urge the people who conceptualised this to go in the traffic on a TenderSURE road for a week and then decide. This project is a white elephant and it causing hardship to everyone , especially the St Marks Road stretch.What has happened is that the Museum ROad bears the brunt of the traffic and there is total chaos everywhere. It is frustrating to see the footpath being unused OR being used for parking. I can go on and on because, I use all the TenderSure roads from Le Meridian to Vittal Mallya Road and St Marks Road. When there was a chance to widen the roads , this effort has been completely wasted, what a Pity

  8. Undoubtedly the way to go. The hitch however is that our public transport system, centered largely around the government monopoly, BMTC, is not, and cannot ever be expected to cope up adequately with the demand. The answer lies in opening out the services to reputed private players, or at least the BMRCL (for feeder services) to begin with.

  9. New and refreshing thought process behind the design. Agree with the approach and thinking a 100% !

    Why are some folks objecting to it ? Suspect its people who will lose lots of easy money if this thing works !

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