Bengalureans, accustomed to uneven footpaths and gaping holes in the middle of some, were taken aback recently when the BBMP announced its plan to develop pavements close to the Metro Rail stations. Many wondered why it was neglecting the rest.
The question is pertinent as footpaths in large sections of the city - except along the newly built TenderSure roads - are hardly usable with broken or loose slabs in some areas, hawkers and vehicles occupying them in others and construction material dumped on them in still other localities.
Complains Ms Alka Sonu, a techie with a company in Bellandur, “Near every company in the area we find footpaths occupied by small shops selling tea and cigarettes and people smoking in the open near them, leaving hardly any room for pedestrians. If these shops are removed, the smokers too will disappear. But as things are today, we end up walking on the roads in the way of traffic. The BBMP should be ashamed of not maintaining pedestrian- friendly footpaths in a metropolitan city like Bengaluru!”
Mr Manish Jingha, a chef, says the BBMP should learn from Eurpoean countries on how to maintain footpaths. “Here we find footpaths are turned into garbage dumps and if any new building is coming up near them, all the construction material is stored on them. Mechanics also use the pavements to park the vehicles they are repairing and business establishments convert them according to their requirements,” he observes.
Stressing that only strict enforcement of rules can make footpaths pedestrian-friendly again, he says the people of Bengaluru need to start a movement to reclaim them as they are, afterall, taxpayers. “It is common to see people walking on the roads despite the presence of a footpath nearby because it is occupied or is unusable for other reasons,” he notes with regret.
Ask a senior BBMP officer why it plans to develop only the footpaths near the Metro stations while neglecting the rest and he says the volume of pedestrians is higher near the stations as they are heading for their trains and the repairs are meant for their convenience. “This does not mean the footpaths in other areas will be neglected as there are people walking everywhere. The matter is already being discussed and we will ensure that every footpath in the city is made pedestrian- friendly. The zonal level officials will be asked to submit a report on the footpaths which are used by a large number of pedestrians and we will repair them,” he promises.
As for the hawkers occupying footpaths, he says although they are a nuisance it is difficult to get rid of them. “I agree that no hawker should use footpaths for his business. But this is difficult to implement in the absence of a new rule or law prohibiting it. Every time we remove them, they only come back the next day. The public has a right to free footpaths and we will ensure that something is done about this,” he adds reassuringly.
Indiranagar, Kormangala among worst-hit
Blessed with pleasant weather that encourages people to walk on its streets unlike in some cities that are too hot for walkers, Bengaluru does have broad enough pavements too for pedestrians to use. But unfortunately in many localities, the pavements are occupied by vehicles , forcing people to walk in the way of traffic instead.
Bustling commercial hubs like Indiranagar, Kormangala, Jayanagar, K R Market, Majestic, Malleshwaram, Commercial Street and Shivajinagar are among the worst affected as the footpaths here are not only occupied by two-wheelers but also cars and autorickshaws making it hard for pedestrians to use them.
“Roads are meant for vehicles and footpaths are for people. But it is the reverse here. Afraid to park on the roads for fear of their vehicles being towed away, people tend to park on footpaths in the belief that their cars or two- wheelers are safer there although this too is illegal,” complain Ms Shruthi, a techie.
Going by the BBMP’s building bye-laws, all commercial building are required to provide basement parking, but many don't and use their basements for more shops in their greed to make money, notes Mr Abhishek R, a resident of Koramangala.
Worse, the traffic police, which should tow away vehicles parked on footpaths, look the other way as they are usually in cahoots with the commercial units, that are usually responsible for taking over the pavements nearby, he laments.
Mayor Gangambike Mallikarjun, however, claims the BBMP is working with the police department to keep the footpaths free of vehicles. When contacted, she said people tended to use the footpaths for their vehicles because of the lack of parking space in the city. "We have requested the traffic police to tow away such vehicles and are also requesting building owners to use their basements only for parking and not anything else,” she added....