Less than 1 percent of Bengaluru’s population uses skywalks. This statistic, provided through a study by a local expert only underscores what we already know: Our skywalks, which double as safe havens for squatters, beggars and miscreants of all kinds, serve very little purpose. Even those with higher footfalls are rife with antisocial activity and pedestrians are forced to step off the darknened pavements beneath deserted skywalks and use the road itself. The government should conduct a survey to understand why people don’t want to use skywalks, say Aashika Rao and Keshav Tiwari, who talk to Joyeeta Chakravorty about the challenges faced by pedestrians in the city.
In February 2017, Bengaluru Development Minister K.J. George announced that tenders had been floated for 100 skywalks across the city. This was met with some incredulity. The idea was to, quite simply, improve walkability along and across the city’s busy roads, although this eventually proved to be a deplorable mess. A few months later, traffic expert M.N. Sreehari conducted a study on the subject, which showed that less than 1% of the population actually uses skywalks. Instead, these turned rapidly into a no man’s land, rife with squatters and nefarious elements. The pavements below, darkened by the landing constructed above them deteriorated too, with the more cautious edging gingerly off the pavements and ending up on the road itself.
24-year-old Aashika Rao, a performing artist based in Bengaluru, uses the Majestic skywalk everyday. “It has been taken over by hawkers, beggars and perverts.” Moving through the onslaught of vendors thrusting their wares into faces of passersby, avoiding the beggars and steering clear of the perverts is a no mean feat – a few months ago, Rao and her friends were accosted by a man passing lewd comments. “I slapped him,” she recalled. She continues to use the skywalks, for the relentless bustle of Majestic leaves her with very little choice. “The crowds are too huge to be managed and security is a personal matter,” Rao remarks, adding that she still hasn’t spotted a single CCTV.
31-year-old Keshav Tiwari, who works at a startup, agrees that security is a major concern. “Hawkers are even known to become violent and attack pedestrians,” he says. Climbing the stairs can be a challenge to many too. “It’s okay for the younger crowd, but what about our parents and senior citizens who have to use the stairs as well?”
Rao, who maintains that the Majestic skywalk remains extremely useful to daily commuters who are dependant either on the KSRTC or the Metro, admits that the government needs to study the matter in-depth. “It’s time the BBMP and the government start looking at studies or conduct surveys of their own to understand why the public stays away from skywalks and how the facility can be improved upon.”
Skywalks that do have huge footfalls also need to be scrutinised, adds Keshav. “These need to be well-monitored as well. The CCTVs can be audited periodically, if not everyday. Public utility needs to be kept in mind by those who are responsible for providing these services. It’s not fair to place the entire onus on an already overworked police force.” Keshav jumps in, bringing the conversation to a close, saying, “They also need to be made safer and more pedestrian friendly and conducive to use by senior citizens and children, who are very vulnerable to miscreants.”...