If you are a person who commutes by walk to work or just likes to walk, you would understand how difficult that can be in Bengaluru – due to non-existent footpaths. Even if they exist they are usually less wide or in a decrepit state. Having to cross the roads is another herculean task. When one thinks of road accidents, rarely does one think of situations where pedestrians are involved. A study by National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) had earlier pointed to pedestrians being among the most vulnerable to road accidents, accounting for around 30-40 percent of deaths and injuries in various cities of India. A new analysis by the Footpath Initiative for the year 2017 shows that the pedestrian fatalities are as high as 44%.
The initiative aims to understand the pedestrian fatalities better. It was a conversation on pedestrian safety between two friends Anusha Chitturi and Varun Shridhar, who cover a few kilometers on foot everyday, that led to The Footpath Initiative. Varun says that they felt the need for such an initiative when they realised that there was a dearth of comprehensive data on pedestrian crashes publicly available especially at the local/ city level. The initiative aims to bring about public awareness on and advocate for pedestrian safety primarily through data and analysis on national and city level pedestrian crashes.
Varun says that they decided to initially study and analyse the situations in Bengaluru and Chennai—the two states that they both reside in. They have come up with a report analysing pedestrian crashes in Bengaluru which was shared with Citizen Matters. They will be focusing on Chennai next. The findings of the reports are shared in a four part series on their website, two of which are currently available and can be accessed here and here.
Through email correspondence Varun and Anusha shared with Citizen Matters the process that they undertook in accessing the pedestrian crash data in Bengaluru. They filed RTIs with the Bengaluru Traffic Police head office for data on pedestrian crashes, injures and death between 2010 and 2017, and then to all the 44 police stations to access the First Information Reports (FIR).
The data shows that there has been a decrease in the number of deaths over the years 2010 and 2017 – an average decrease of 5 percent.
However, Bengaluru saw 642 road fatalities in 2017, of which 282 (nearly 44%) were of pedestrians. The number is alarming, given that only about 8% of all trips in Bengaluru are covered by walk according to RITES.
Key findings of the report
- The majority of pedestrian deaths in 2017 have been in the areas of Electronic City, K R Puram, Banaswadi, Yashwantpur, Peenya, Yellahanka and Byatarayanapura. These areas which are adjoining the outer ring road have seen a higher number of pedestrian deaths compared to other areas in the past few years.
- An analysis of the FIRs of 2017 showed that 90 percent of the crashes were due to over speeding and reckless driving, followed by reversing of the vehicle and driving under influence. The FIRs though failed to capture details on vehicular or road factors that could have contributed to the accidents.
- In 2017, around 60 percent of the victims were crossing the road prior to the crash, and 19 percent were either walking on the footpath or the side of the road when vehicles hit them from the front or behind.
- During the same year 27 percent of the crashes involved two-wheelers, 25 percent of them car/jeep, and 17 percent involved buses.
- 62 percent of the victims in 2017 passed away while in the hospital, 18 percent on the way to the hospital, 16 percent at the site of the crash, and 2 percent on their way to a referral hospital.
There is a correlation between the time of the day and pedestrian accidents. “The peak periods of crashes also varied depending on the day of the week, possibly pointing to varying pedestrian volumes and trip patterns across the city during different days of the week,” says the report. The peak time of the day during which maximum accidents took place happens to be between 7.30 to 8 pm—a total of 29 deaths.
Advocacy and next steps
In addition to providing comprehensive data and making it available to the public on their website and social media sources, Varun says that they are also hoping to collaborate with civil society groups such as NGOs, Resident Welfare Associations (RWA ) etc in ensuring pedestrian safety.
I find it interesting when the blame is simply passed on to reckless driving. Nobody talks about pedestrian carelessness when crossing roads. Partial blame goes to the exponential growth this city has seen with villages becoming IT hub but people still jaywalking all over the road. Though over speeding is one of the reason but after regularly commuting in Bangalore traffic the number 1 reason is absolute lack of facility for pedestrian crossing across Bangalore, specially ring road. Most FIRs the police will blame it to over speeding but definitely that is not the case most of the time.
Unfortunately, it is well known but no action taken so far. All women of Bengaluru are Savitris hence their husbands and children are safe and sound and all men are equally devoted to their wives and the women are safe. However Yamaraj is lurking on the roads in various avatars ( rash drivers, indifferent Govt agencies, for example) and claims victims from time to time. Banter apart, the situation is very grim for pedestrians.
Pedestrian safety on main roads was always lacking in Bangalore. The priority was always for roads and road widening. What ever is left at the side of the road is sadly considered footpath.
In addition now the pedestrian safety inside residential layouts has also eroded significantly.Residential layout roads, once peaceful, have been encroached by parked vehicles of house owners, construction debris, eateries and shops. Due to lack of clear demarcation of footpath/road inside layouts, the entire available width is considered as road. Hapless pedestrians jump, hop, skip and constantly watch their back while walking in residential layouts. With water tankers and heavy trucks constantly plying in residential layouts the risk to pedestrians is extremely high.
Demarcating road and footpath (with a small height to the footpath ) on all roads is the right thing to do. It doesn’t cost much to do, but the BBMP engineers and contractors mindset has to change.