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On Monday afternoon at Baner, after shopping at a departmental store, five members of two neighbouring families were waiting at the median to cross the road. But within minutes, their world turned upside down. The driver of a speeding car lost control of the vehicle, which smashed into them. While a three-year-old girl died within some time, her mother died the next day. Three others sustained serious injuries.
What makes pedestrians vulnerable to accidents? City-based organisations and experts say that other than lack of road discipline, poor road design and poor infrastructure are the key reasons.
According to Ranjit Gadgil from NGO Parisar, which works in various areas including sustainable urban transport, heritage conservation and protection of urban bio-diversity, it is critical that interaction between pedestrians and motorised vehicles is reduced to a minimum. This meant providing good quality, continuous pedestrian pathways that are well segregated from motor vehicle lanes.
“At junctions where pedestrians must cross, conflict with motorised traffic is inevitable… it is essential to provide properly designed intersections, with zebra markings and adequate signal timing for pedestrians to cross. Enforcement of traffic rules at junctions, for both pedestrians and motorised vehicles, is absolutely critical… the space allocated to pedestrians must be adequate. The ‘clear walking area’ must be separate from the space needed for utilities. Since the overall width of the road is limited, creating quality pedestrian infrastructure must be prioritised over space for parking or traffic,” says Gadgil.
He pointed out that the city’s planning, design and management of traffic was, unfortunately, still focussed on the movement of vehicles. Maximising the number of motor vehicle lanes was preferred, even at the expense of basic pedestrian infrastructure, leading to more accidents.
The Urban Street Design Guidelines (USDG) as well as the Pedestrian Policy of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) provide detailed guidance on these aspects, says Gadgil, adding that reluctance by various departments and the traffic police, and lack of political support, has meant the guidelines remained only on paper.
Harshad Abhyankar, coordinator, policy advocacy, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), emphasises on the importance of road design and points out, “The design should be such that drivers are able to gauge how fast they should be driving, which lane they should be taking, when the pedestrians should be allowed to cross.”
Last year, the PMC had prepared USDG that aimed at redesigning the roads, and ITDP was one of the parties involved in preparation of the guidelines.
“The focus of USDG is on pedestrians… if implemented in road designing, pedestrian accidents will reduce to a large extent…,” says Abhyankar, pointing out that pedestrian overbridges are not a solution as they are hardly used by pedestrians.
Prashant Inamdar, founder of NGO Pedestrians First, stressed that pedestrian crossings at short intervals on every road would affect the overall efficiency of traffic movement. “On some stretches of JM Road and FC Road, crossings are required at shorter intervals due to heavy pedestrian movement. This may not be the case on other roads. Generally, crossings can be provided at about 150-metre intervals depending on surrounding land use and pedestrian movement…,” says Inamdar.