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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Chandigarh drafts healthy streets policy to transform ‘lifeline of the city’

In recent years, Chandigarh has taken various initiatives to promote more sustainable mobility modes such as walking, cycling, and public transport. It has created over 200 kilometres of footpaths, cycle lanes, and enhanced last-mile connectivity through public bike-sharing (PBS) systems.

Written by Hina Rohtaki | Chandigarh |
Updated: April 6, 2021 1:09:35 am
Chandigarh drafts healthy streets policy to transform 'lifeline of the city'It was said in the policy that "streets are the lifeline of a city, moving diverse groups of people through different modes of transport every day". (File Photo)

The Chandigarh Administration has drafted a “healthy streets” policy. The aim to make this policy is to transform Chandigarh’s streets into safe, attractive, and comfortable spaces.

It was said in the policy that “streets are the lifeline of a city, moving diverse groups of people through different modes of transport every day”.

“The streets in the city also act as important public spaces providing different social, economic and recreational opportunities for our people, including children, the disabled, and elderly.”

But recently, the city’s streets have been reduced to a more restricted role of serving as conduits for the movement of automobiles, the policy specifies.

“This has made Chandigarh’s streets less desirable to walk, cycle, or take public transport, thereby making driving often the most comfortable choice. The people of Chandigarh also face adverse consequences of private motor vehicles (PMV) which impact their health, well-being, and safety,” it was said.

In the last decade, PMV ownership in the city has risen, causing a sharp decline in our air quality along with increasing congestion, road accidents, and rapid growth of lifestyle disorders.

“There is an urgent need to look at streets as places where people walk, talk, cycle, shop, and perform the multitude of social functions that are critical to the health of cities,” it was said.

In recent years, Chandigarh has taken various initiatives to promote more sustainable mobility modes such as walking, cycling, and public transport. It has created over 200 kilometres of footpaths, cycle lanes, and enhanced last-mile connectivity through public bike-sharing (PBS) systems. Chandigarh’s PBS with 617 stations and 5,000 bicycles will be India’s first pan-city PBS and the densest.

The city has also initiated lighting the cycle tracks for safe use by all, especially the vulnerable groups.

The 2031 Master Plan of Chandigarh aims at creating cycle tracks on all V4 roads to give access to neighbourhoods.

What is the vision for this policy?

According to the policy, Chandigarh’s vision for the future is to transform its streets into ‘Healthy Streets’ which are designed for the people — where everyone can move around with ease.

“A city which is well-connected, where people prefer to walk, cycle, and use public transport over cars. It is a city with pleasant streets and vibrant public spaces where citizens can linger, socialise, and visit local businesses,” it was said.

How will Healthy Streets benefit the city?

The policy states that “the Healthy Streets approach which places safety, vibrancy, and comfort at the core of its interventions can have multiple benefits for the city and its citizens”.

In New York, pedestrian-friendly streets have resulted in a 26% reduction in injury from crashes, 16% decrease in speeding, and has also fostered neighbourhood interaction.

“Pedestrianisation can also lead to reduction in crime rates. In Mexico city, pedestrianisation of the city centre led to a reduction in 96% of violent crime. Walking and cycling improvements also benefit the environment by reducing traffic congestion and noise pollution and lowering carbon emissions from motor vehicles,” it was said.

The policy stated that this can be seen in Paris, where the city went car-free for a day in September 2015 and exhaust emissions were reduced by 40% and that there are economic benefits as well.

“A Transport for London report shows that improving streets for walking and cycling can boost retail sales by up to a staggering 30% by increasing the opportunity to interact with local businesses.”

What is the Healthy Streets Policy?

It was stated that “the Healthy Streets Policy sets out the vision, goals, and the steps required to transform Chandigarh’s streets into safe, attractive, and comfortable spaces”.

It lays out different initiatives that citizens can expect from the city in the coming years to achieve this vision. The policy heralds a change in the city’s focus by committing to a long-term strategy to transform its streets in collaboration with its citizens.

The Healthy Streets Policy is centered around three key principles: Equity — to include all groups of people, especially the vulnerable and the marginalised, second is sustainability – To meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations and third is Quality of Life – To promote dignity and improve the quality of life for everyone.

Healthy Streets are streets where every citizen gets a fair share of road space.

To provide every citizen a fair share of limited road space Chandigarh will prioritise space- efficient modes like walking, cycling, and public transport and discourage modes that occupy more space per person, such as cars.

Everyone breathes clean air

Chandigarh will prioritise zero emission modes like walking and cycling, shared modes like public transport that emit less per capita, and low emission modes that employ clean vehicle technology.

No lives are lost

Chandigarh will encourage safe driving and design streets to reduce conflict between motor vehicles and vulnerable road users like pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists by mitigating speed and accounting for human error.

Walking and cycling are attractive

Chandigarh will create a network of safe, shaded, and clean walking and cycling spaces that connect all parts of the city,” it stated.

Public transport is easily accessible

Chandigarh will ensure that public transport services are within easy reach and interconnected by walking and cycling facilities, and that public transport stops provide safe shelter for all, at all times.

Everyone moves around the city seamlessly

Chandigarh will remove hindrances to the movement of vulnerable and disabled citizens to facilitate their independent mobility.

Women, children, and the elderly feel safe at all times

Chandigarh will eliminate opportunities for crime on its streets, especially against women, children, and the elderly, through better design and activity management.

People enjoy street life

Chandigarh will design streets as vibrant public spaces that invite everyone, including women, children and elderly, to spend more time outdoors and socialise, thus improving the mental and physical well-being of citizens.

Local businesses flourish

Chandigarh will enhance livelihoods by integrating street vending and local retail businesses in the street design.

The design adapts to climatic changes

Chandigarh will use materials and designs that enhance the life of infrastructure, ease maintenance, and are responsive to the environment.

Chandigarh commits to the following approach to achieve ‘Healthy Streets’ by the people, for the people

The policy states that Chandigarh can only deliver on its mission of Healthy Streets with citizens’ support, feedback, and participation.

The city will inform and engage citizens from all walks of life and of different incomes, genders, ages, and abilities throughout the process of planning, designing, testing, and implementation.

Test-Learn-Scale

Before finalising designs and making substantial investments, Chandigarh will first test the design through low-cost and temporary means, learn from them to refine the design, and finally make it permanent and scale it up across the city.

Data-driven decision-making

Chandigarh will gather and share relevant data on the performance of infrastructure and services to government agencies, policy makers, and citizens, for data-driven decision-making on initiatives, investments, research, and communication strategy.

Plan and budget

Create a citywide healthy streets network plan to ensure citizens have access to safe, attractive, seamless, and enjoyable streets across the city and to create a city-wide parking management plan for better road space management and ensure all road users have a fair share of road space.

Creating annual budget plans for Healthy Streets

Implementation

The policy states that hire competent designers for the design of Healthy Streets and contractors that can deliver high-quality implementation and to develop a work-zone management plan to ensure all road users can use streets safely and conveniently during implementation.

It was also said to conduct reviews and audits to identify and rectify gaps in a timely manner during the design and implementation of Healthy Streets initiatives.

The policy also states about monitoring and evaluation where one can develop monitoring and evaluation framework to measure the effectiveness of Healthy Streets initiatives with respect to the Healthy Streets goals.

The city will do the following to build support for Healthy Streets amongst the citizens –

a. Information

Provide information on way-finding, bus routes, real-time location of bus, expected travel time and others to make walking, cycling, and public transport attractive and reliable, inform citizens on various Healthy Streets initiatives.

b. Participation

Create a community engagement strategy to involve citizens in the Healthy Streets initiatives for collaborative decision-making, understand citizens’ perception, and increase awareness.

c. Inspiration

Launch Healthy Streets Campaign through open streets events, street design competitions, cycling and walking tours, and cycle training among others to build support among citizens.

Creating detailed plan of action

Chandigarh will create a detailed action plan to achieve the above steps. The action plan will include details on targets, intermediate steps, timelines, and the responsible agencies/departments.

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