Hasiru Usiru a citizen’s group kicked off a weekly event to identify problem spots for pedestrians in the city on July 11. The group invited citizens to participate in the ‘come, cross the road’ event at various city junctions and collected data on problems.
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Here’s the report
Why the event?
In Bangalore, the majority of commute happens through public transport/cycle or walk. This means that more than 50% of the people are pedestrians. But unfortunately, the projects touted by our authorities are aimed at the vehicle users. We wanted to address this undemocratic imbalance by organising events across Bangalore that highlight the issues faced by pedestrians. A typical pedestrian’s life consists of waiting for inordinate amounts of time in polluted junctions and then scampering across roads, risking their lives in the process. Lesser said about the experiences of the senior citizens, the physically challenged, the better. A lot of them are afraid to even step out of their homes. Hence, we want to show these problems to the public and the authorities and hope these more pressing concerns are tackled first.
‘Come, Cross the Road ‘ Week – 1 (July 11) Hasiru Usiru
- Sankey Park (Malleshwaram side)
- Bhashyam Circle, Sadashivanagar
- Bellary Road (opposite Air Force Station, after Mekhri Circle underpass)
- Sophia’s School
At Sankey Park, there were parents with children who crossed the road. It was noticed that there is a longer waiting time than the actual crossing time. The crossing has to happen between breaks in traffic which reduced as the peak traffic increased. When the waiting time began to get longer, people started taking risks while crossing. Also, most of the people had to cross to the divider, wait for some time before getting to the other side. This was risky as vehicles kept constantly zooming past the people waiting at the dividers. There were no pedestrian signals at this junction.
At Bhashyam Circle, which is a huge 4-road junction, the pedestrian signals were not working most of the time. Even in the few cycles that the pedestrian lights came on, it was only the sound and not the actual light. This mean that most vehicles continued to disregard the signal and kept driving on. The traffic policemen also didn’t help the pedestrians waiting at dividers to cross the roads. It was very evident that vehicles had the higher priority.
At Bellary Road, which is a high pedestrian area as there are bus-stops on either side of the road, a pelican light had been recently installed. But this signal had to be forcibly enforced by 2 constables. Most vehicles ignored the green pedestrian light and continued driving on. Only when the policemen came to the middle of the road to stop the vehicles, were the pedestrians able to cross. The waiting time between these signals was huge; in some cases, almost 15 minutes. The time provided for the pedestrians to cross the road was 20 seconds, which meant that most of them had to run across the road. Invariably, a lot of people were stuck on the median. The people there said, the situation was worse before these pelican lights came up.
At Sophia’s School, the aim was to see how people used the high sky-walk provided. A person on crutches tried to climb up the steps, and unequivocally said that it was impossible for her. So, the volunteers had to stop traffic to help her cross the road. It was noticed that pedestrians had to wait for a long time at the Chalukya junction before they got the opportunity to cross it. Just like the other roads covered in the first week, a lot of people had to run across the road to reach in time.
The event was also conducted in Lingarajapuram by Kilikili, a trust for children with special needs along with Association for People with disability (APD)
Wheelchair users could not even attempt to cross road. Traffic coming from the flyover was relentless, and it was too scary.
Pedestrian Signal had turned red but the people using wheelchairs had not fully crossed over. Required the traffic police to manually stop traffic till they crossed
Slabs with gaps which wheelchairs found difficult to negotiate. Differential levels with two steps at one point. Completely inaccessible and not in the least disabled friendly. The only other option was to use the road.
‘Come, Cross the Road ‘ Week – 2 (July 18) Hasiru Usiru
- Sanjay Gandhi Bus Stop, 32nd Cross , Jayanagar 4th Block
- Bus Stop below flyover on old airport road (near diamond district)
- Sophia School Sky-walk
The event at Jayanagar was an initiative of the children of Tilaknagar area. They were finding it extremely difficult to cross the road everyday, while either walking or catching a bus to school/college.
Here , there are two bus-stops, one on either side of the road. There is no signal or zebra crossing here and the children have to wait for breaks in traffic. They had to wait for 3 minutes to cross the road, go to the median, wait there for 1 minute 10 seconds and then again cross the road.
A little further , a junction where 4 roads meet was even worse. There is no signal, no zebra crossing and as you wait in the middle of the road, you have vehicles coming in 3 different directions! The waiting time here was 5 mins!
There were some senior citizens who also came to try and cross the road and measure how long it takes. Chandra Ravikumar, a resident of Jayanagar came and she tried to cross the road 3 times. She waited for many minutes each time but could not cross the road. Finally she gave up, she just could not cross the road!
She and some other senior citizens suggested that we should have pelican lights(pedestrian operated signals) where every time it is the pedestrians tun to cross, there is a barricade (like the ones used in railway crossings) which will prevent the vehicles from rushing and harming the pedestrians.
Old Airport Road
This is an extremely dangerous bus-stop to use. There is no signal on that road, no zebra crossing, nothing. People have to wait for natural breaks in traffic, which are very few and far-between. 3 people tried to cross in a batch a, and it took them 2.5 mins to reach the divider…and then another 3mins from there to the other side.
Anuradha Parekh, was carrying her 1 year old child and tried to cross the road. She took 5 minutes just to reach the divider, then another 5 minutes to go to the other side! She stays close-by and she spoke of how she is forced to take an auto, even for a distance of 1 km, because crossing the road on foot with a child is so difficult.
Also, here, the road is so wide, that you can’t even cross till the median in one go. You need to cross one lane, wait in the middle of the road in the midst of traffic and then go. It is extremely dangerous.
It is very dangerous for cyclists too, one young cyclist was knocked down by an auto, even as we were doing the audit. The other issue here is that, on the Indiranagar side of the flyover, there is absolutely no footpath!
Sophia School Sky Walk
This was covered last week also, but we needed more data. At this junction, there are 4 roads which meet, but there is no signal. It is fully signal-free. At two of the roads, there is a sky-walk which can be used (again not by disabled, elderly and children) to cross the road but on the other 2 sides, there is no sky-walk, no zebra crossing, no signal, nothing to help cross the road.
Between 6pm and 7pm, we counted how many people used the sky-walk and how many chose to just cross on the road. (We didn’t count on the arms where there is no sky-walk) .
In one hour, 50 people crossed the road, 25 used the sky-walk to cross. We spoke to users of the sky-walk and those who crossed the road at road level, as to why they used the sky-walk/just crossed the road. There was a 80 year old gentleman, retired from the state government who said he cannot climb the sky-walk (it has116 steps-58 steps up, 58 down). He said he wished there was a signal there to help him cross.
There was a 18 year old girl from Mount Carmel college. She said she used the sky-walk regularly, but she said she would prefer signal to sky-walks since sky-walks cannot be used by the elderly and disabled. There were also a 34 year old lady, who works as a cook. She said she cannot climb up and down so many stairs and hence crossed the road. If she does try to use the steps, it takes a minimum of 10 minutes for her she said.
There was one user, a young man who said that he prefers to use the sky-walk since he wants to ‘follow’ the rules’. This is indicative of the mindset that has crept in – that a pedestrian is a trespasser on the road, that s/he doesn’t belong on the road! The government wants pedestrians to use skywalks, pedestrian underpasses and save the roads for cars and other vehicles. This is precisely the mind-set which we want to change. We want a city for people not cars.
Our plan going forward:
We hope it becomes a citizen-driven initiative, where people identify “problem spots” from their daily lives and organise similar pedestrian events. We want this to be a weekly event covering different parts of Bangalore. Already, children around Sanjay Gandhi Hospital in Jayanagar came forward to us volunteering to organise this event on a road that they frequent and face problems daily. We want to collate the data and experiences from all these events and publicise it to the relevant authorities and the public.⊕