Planning for Pedestrian Safety
Since Delhi Traffic Police last week implemented a Pedestrian Safety Week,
it was felt that it may be an opportune moment to highlight certain RTI
applications which raise policy level issues of pedestrian safety while
planning & maintaining roads.
pedestrian who has tried to use pavements in Delhi or tried to cross roads,
would certainly come to conclusion that Delhi is no longer a city for
pedestrians but only for motorised vehicles. Otherwise, how CM of Delhi
would proudly boast that there would be no traffic lights on Delhi’s ring
road. This kind of mentality of making traffic ‘fast’ rather than ‘smooth’
can often be observed even in planning of the roads. We often see
pedestrians waiting for long periods before they can cross roads, simply
because there are no pedestrian crossings. This results in hardship for all
pedestrians and not just elderly and children. Pedestrian end-up making
suicidal leaps often resulting in accidents. With construction of Metro the
situation has become worse, most dividers between the two roads have become
inaccessible to the pedestrians, thus forcing them to take huge extra
walking to cross the roads or jump over high hurdles, not only creating
physical hardships, but compromising the self-dignity of individuals. No
where in the world such kind of callous attitude towards pedestrians would
is essential that any transport-management system needs to recognise that
pedestrian are an important component of the system and their needs are
appropriately addressed. To understand policy/planning processes regarding
usage of roads by pedestrians, an RTI application was filed with MCD. Since
the Ring Road is maintained by PWD, a response on similar lines was sought
from them too. A reply by the Engineering Department of MCD stated that it
follows standards as set out by Indian Road Congress (IRC), while the PWD
gave even more vague reply, without adding any new insight. Its response was
that the feasibility of ‘a project’ is approved by Delhi Urban Art
Commission, DDA Traffic Advisory Committee, etc, without making any
reference to the pedestrian safety at all. Obviously both the answers were
vague and it appeared that the Departments were just evading the questions
raised, under the cover of various high sounding institutions.
visit to IRC revealed that it has issued basically two guidelines IRC-70 in
1977 and IRC-103 in 1989 entitled ‘Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities’.
IRC-70 issued in 1977 has obviously been overtaken by the latter version.
IRC-103 is a small pocket-size booklet of around 15-16 pages. The Guideline
discusses general principles as well as provides some drawings and technical
details of guard-rails, pedestrian crossings, footpaths, etc.
general principles identified in the Guidelines include, planning to be done
in an integrated manner so as to ensure a continuous pedestrian flow,
avoidance of situations which force people to abandon pavements, reduce
pedestrian conflicts with vehicular traffic to the minimum and provision of
pedestrian crossings in the ‘substantial conflict’ areas. Viewed against
such policies, if one is to consider, the practical reality of status of
footpaths and crossing facilities, planning of pedestrian safety appears to
be almost non-existent. For example the height of the footpaths in most
parts of Delhi is not standardised. At places it is so high that leave
alone, children & elderly, even the ordinary pedestrian users would be found
avoiding use of the pavements. Most pavements are so uneven or generally un-walkable
simply because one feels like almost doing a steeplechase while using a
pavement for any reasonable distance. Thus the ground reality is such that
the policy referred in the IRC guidelines of ‘avoidance of situations which
force people to abandon pavements’ is clearly not being complied with,
simply because our Engineering Departments have not specified height of the
pavements for the designers. Or even if it has been specified there are no
mechanisms to ensure that these are actually adhered to.
of the other major problems is crossing the roads, often pedestrians cross
the roads at serious risk of injuries. Accordingly two additional questions
under the RTI application were raised with the Dept. One being, how does the
Department establish ‘substantial conflict’ areas and if these policies
ensure that identification of such areas is pre-requisite while designing a
road (a substantial conflict area is defined as area where there is a
conflict between vehicular and pedestrian traffics, i.e. area where
pedestrians need to cross roads). The second question, asked if the Dept.
has a policy for determining at what distances, ‘pedestrian crossings’ need
to be established. If yes, what is the policy and how it is intimated to the
concerned engineers designing the roads. As expected the answers to both the
questions were vague and incomplete, for all the issues raised, it just
stated that it undertook everything as per IRC codes.
Since IRC codes only specify general principles and not exact distances that
need to be kept in between the two crossings, it is the duty of the
Department to undertake an assessment of traffic density at various
locations. However from the responses, it is clear that the department does
not have any laid down policy in this regard.
the conclusion, one can say that scientific pedestrian planning in the road
management is total lacking, and that there is no systemic mechanism to
ensure that whatever little polices that may be formulated, in this regard,
are actually put in practice. Leaving pedestrians to simply on their own or
a few ad-hoc initiatives.