"Doing TenderSURE? It's been like a Mohen-jo-Daro discovery," laughed V. Ravichandar, the man behind Bengaluru's newest look. St. Mark's Road and Cunningham Road were the earliest specimens of this project, with wide footpaths and demarcated lanes that should have silenced the legion of naysayers. The project also includes underground utilities like water pipes, sewerage pies, power cables and storm water drains, to name a few. Without an adequate map of the city's underground to rely on, the TenderSURE team has been operating largely on a trial-and-error basis as far as utilities are concerned."
TenderSure being sanctioned on 50 more across the city, heralds the dawn of a new day for Bengaluru, one that is pedestrian-friendly, encourages cyclists and urges the government to improve the public transport system.
The project goes back about eight years, when the City Connection Foundation, a branch of local NGO Janaagraha, realised that the city had no fixed street manuals to construct roads. The foundation put the manuals together at its own cost and also provided designs for a few roads. "We spend on design and the state spends on the execution," said Ravichandar. TenderSURE is radically different from the norm because it takes a long-term approach to city planning. Currently, roads are asphalted (shoddily) evry six months and huge bill mount up over the years. "Here, the upfront cost is higher," he agreed, adding, "But there are no repair costs."
"Why do pedestrians need so much space?" "TenderSURE is an elitist project" and "These roads are thrice the cost of regular tenders" - are the most common criticisms thrown at the TenderSURe team. Ravichandar, who factoids always at the ready to counter his critics, says, "One pedestrian dies on the roads everyday. A civilised society takes care of its vulnerable groups and currently, nothing about our road designs takes pedestrians into account."
With about half of the city's population using the 6500-odd buses that ply the city everyday, making the switch to public transport is not as momentous as people would imagine. "Yes, the roads have shrunk, but they are now uniform across the stretch," Ravichandar argued. "If roads are to be designed around pedestrians and cyclists, something has to give and in this case, it is the width of the vehicle lanes."
The process of construction is arduous but the results are worth the wait. Underground utilities account for 60% of the total cost, without which the cost of constructing a TenderSURE road is comparable to that of a conventional road. "Storm water drains are also being accounted for and you're not likely to see the pathetic shouldered-drains that currently exist all over the city."
Their plan is to have roads in the city center brought under the TenderSURE project, after which citizen groups will pressurise the government to have them installed in the suburbs, too. "The BBMP has issued lots of statements saying that the footpath size will be reduced," he remarked, calling the move "extremely short-sighted" and likely to cause grief in the years to come. "To those who ask me why anything should be given to the pedestrian, I say, why should anything be given to the motorist?"
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