The four-kilometre Bellandur-Marathalli stretch of the Outer Ring Road is home to over 50 large IT companies, and directly employs nearly five lakh people. Consequently, hundreds of homes, small businesses, paying guest accommodations have sprung up in Bellandur to cater to the needs of the surging mass of people who now live and work here, creating a nightmare for residents and travelers alike.
While ill-planned flyovers and underpasses have done precious little to improve traffic flow on the ORR, it has successfully divided Bellandur into two halves, and made life hell to people of this community, especially to pedestrians who either need to cross the ORR, or have to walk a few hundred yards along the ORR to access services. Employees at Salarpuria Softzone cross ORR to get off or on public buses at great risk. Tiny tots who used to cross ORR to reach their playschools have either moved to other schools on the same side of the ORR, or have their parent drive them around the ORR. Domestic help, senior citizens, kids, are today imperiled while crossing ORR. Pedestrian accidents are a daily occurrence, and fatalities are no longer rare.
As the risk of crossing the ORR increased disproportionately every day, residents petitioned local MLA Arvind Limbavali, and Corporator Asha Suresh ahead of the 2015 BBMP elections, for a skywalk; their promise to take this matter up remained just that – a promise. Residents persisted however – meeting with the local Corporator, the police, and seeking urgent interventions of Mr. Limbavali, but to no avail.
The final straw that broke the proverbial camel though was what happened at 7.07pm on November 29, 2017. At that fateful moment, young Sanjay Giri, a nineteen-year old security guard with Akme Harmony Apartments on ORR, was headed to work. He peeped from under the bushy undergrowth on the ORR median to check if all was clear to cross the road to start his evening at work. A speeding cab hit him and minutes later, he was dead.
That unfortunate event galvanised the public, who decided to push for a skywalk at any cost. They were no more willing to see their children, their staff, or friends get hurt, or die on the ORR, like Sanjay did. Thousands of residents and office-goers formed a human chain on December 6, 2017 during peak office hours, demanding a skywalk immediately. The size and scale of the protest, and the mood of people woke the government up.
Things started moving thereafter quite rapidly. Member of Parliament P.C. Mohan got into the act. Responding swiftly to Bellandur Jothege’s request for a meeting to discuss the need for a skywalk, he met with a determined and focused bunch of residents on December 16, 2017, seeking a quick resolution to the demand for a skywalk. Member of Legislative Assembly Arvind Limbavali, local corporator Asha Suresh, Deputy Commisioner of Police (traffic) Abhishek Goyal, Traffic Inspector Rajashekar, and Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Ltd engineer Livingstone Elaizar joined him.
Mohan said that his office would take ownership of this project, and would get BMRCL, which is planning a metro line along ORR, to come up with a design and location for the skywalk within four working days. Mohan confirmed that a corporate entity had already come forward to finance the skywalk project as part of their CSR initiative, and that it would be constructed within 90 days of NOC from BMRCL. Aravind Limbavali also committed that the skywalk would be designed to cater to the needs of senior citizens and physically disabled people (with elevators or escalators). Finally, Mohan committed to have the police work with citizen representatives of Bellandur Jothige to design and implement an interim plan to deal with road crossing issues.
If this skywalk is constructed within the time frame committed, it would a wonderful exhibition of citizen-government collaboration in solving local problems speedily and efficiently. This could form the template for solving several outstanding issues specifically in Bellandur ward – from sewage lines to lake revival to encroachments on public land to other pedestrian-friendly initiatives.